Punch comment made by University of Dallas president spurs backlash

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by SHELLY SLATER

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaashelly

WFAA

Posted on March 11, 2011 at 9:54 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 11 at 9:57 PM

DALLAS - He's a self-proclaimed feisty president, but some students at the University of Dallas say president Thomas Keefe crossed the line with an aggressive comment he made at a forum in response to student comments.

The incident centers around a new pastoral degree planned for the campus. However, some argue the School of Ministry isn't fit to teach it. Some teachers have disagreed with the church's teachings on topics like homosexuality.

Keefe said he wears his heart on his sleeve, and that may have caused a little trouble.

"Whether we like it or not, this is me," Keefe said.

"It's not that one school or one department is harboring a hot bed of supporters of homosexuality within the Catholic church," Keefe said. "That's just not true."

Student backlash led Keefe to create an open forum to discuss the degree.

"I'm a pretty feisty guy," he said at the forum. "If some of those e-mails had been said to me in person, I would have punched them out."

"Why would any UD student with a legitimate concern regarding orthodoxy feel welcome in Keefe's office, given his behavior?" one student responded.

"Clean house from the University president on down," wrote another.

"If you don't want to abide by the rules, why should Good Catholics pay your salary?" yet another wrote.

"I didn't say anything that I'm embarrassed about," Keefe said. "I didn't threaten to beat anyone up. What I said was I was surprised and disappointed."

Keefe said he wants to use this as a teaching moment for everyone, with no more attacks or name calling. Instead, he said he wants respectful discussions.

He admits using the phrase "punch out" doesn't fit that. But, he said, only strong words would help create what he called the "ground rules."

"I got their attention," he said. "That was my goal. I didn't threaten anybody. I told them I was hurt."

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