As if the allegations of squelching academic freedom aren’t damning enough, the actions of the USF President Judy Genshaft this past week prove that she has recoiled into survival mode.
When the hearing for controversial professor Sami Al-Arian was initially announced, students quickly collaborated an organized march from the gate of the university on Fowler Avenue to the Marshall Center where it was to be held.
It would have marked the first time Al-Arian set foot on campus since October 2001.
But none of that would happen. The hearing was conveniently moved off campus to the Embassy Suites, where, on privately leased land, students could be contained inside so-called “free-speech zones” more than 100 yards away from where the meeting was taking place.
The hearing also appeared to hold the possibility of Genshaft and Al-Arian meeting for the first time, but Genshaft was a no-show.
President Genshaft is walking on thin ice, as it appears the faculty has aligned, for the most part, against her. Refusing to, at the least, shake the hand of an individual who she plans on firing is not only cowardly, it’s inhuman.
But avoiding difficult situations is nothing new for Genshaft. In a Faculty Senate meeting late last year, Genshaft rambled on for 15 minutes about growth at USF, leaving less than a minute to hastily assure the uneasy senators that a set of emergency rules was nothing to fret about.
Before union president Roy Weatherford could get up to argue his side, the president left the building.
And just a week and a half ago, she weaved out of another difficult situation, refusing to answer questions on stage from irate faculty members following an overdue apology for not including faculty in the development of the new rules.
This behavior is childish and despicable. Genshaft has realized she is in a lose-lose situation and now is just doing what it takes to get by.
But it’s not too late. She should stop treating her faculty like numbers and more like people. She should stand up to the corporate hounds that make up USF’s Board of Trustees and ask them to reconsider its recommendation, in light of the inevitability of an AAUP censure and possible faculty strike. But whatever she decides, when she decides it, she should have the courage to look Al-Arian in his eyes.
A little compassion could go a long way.