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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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University comes away shocked, burned
A Times Editorial
Published September 21, 2007
The Web site of University of Florida student Andrew Meyer already displays links to the national coverage of his story ("made the front page of FoxNews.com"), suggesting he got at least some of what he wanted from his outburst at a campus forum with U.S. Sen. John Kerry. The university, by contrast, came out of the incident shocked and burned.
Meyer was doing a fine job of making a singular spectacle of himself Monday as he drilled Kerry with high-decibel non sequiturs. But that changed in less than 15 seconds, which was all the time it took before a young campus police officer drew a bead on him with her Taser gun. Before the dust had settled, five officers were holding Meyer down as one delivered a 50,000-volt shock. The episode was recorded by an array of student-owned digital video cameras, including one that Meyer had handed to a student before stepping to the microphone.
This is the YouTube age, and UF president Bernie Machen reacted with appropriate speed. On Tuesday, he called for a Florida Department of Law Enforcement and a university review of the incident. "This is a university, and we want to have civil discourse," Machen told reporters. "The fact that it didn't occur is as troubling to me as it is to our students."
Keeping comity on a campus with 51,000 opinionated young people is no easy chore. But there is one line that should never be easily crossed. The reason law enforcement should use Tasers only as a substitute to lethal force is that there have been a reported 250 Taser-related deaths in the United States. The reason campus police officers should be even more cautious is that their primary duty is to keep students safe.
Less noticed in the screaming video is that the first person to tug at Meyer's sleeve, only 30 seconds into his rambling question, was a campus police officer. As president Machen restores open and civil discourse to UF, he'd do well to push the police to the back of the room.