The reaction from students and faculty throughout the USF campus regarding the arrest of Sami Al-Arian ranged from shocked to expected.
Early Thursday, FBI agents were knocking on Al-Arian’s door with the intent to arrest the controversial USF professor and charge him with racketeering and conspiracy to murder.
Mike Griffin, Student Body President, said he was not shocked about Al-Arian’s arrest.
“It’s scary to think that someone of this much evil has had a place in our campus, close to our students, close to our faculty, for such a long period of time,” Griffin said.
Griffin has stated, since the beginning of the controversy, that the USF campus is safer without him.
“When the Attorney General of the United States holds a press conference and the focus is on this gentleman, it’s shocking,” he said.
Griffin also said he hopes that the American Association of University Professors reconsiders and sees the bigger picture regarding Al-Arian’s teaching position.
Roy Weatherford, president for the faculty union, said he was sure that there are a lot of people who resent anyone who appears to be defending enemies of the United States.
Nevertheless, Weatherford said the faculty union’s position has always been the defense of academic freedom, due process and the collective bargaining agreement.
Weatherford said if the university and the government follow due process and reveal evidence of terrorism connections, then Al-Arian deserves to be punished. First, the government must prove its case.
He also said the grievance Al-Arian filed about his suspension is still in the hands of the university.
“The faculty union regularly defends the contractual and constitutional rights of everybody in the bargaining unit,” Weatherford said.
Jessie Guvernat, a sophomore majoring in criminology, said Al-Arian’s arrest was the right thing to do.
“I think if the authorities think he should have been arrested, then he should have been arrested,” Guvernat said.
He said he thinks the arrest is not going to damage the university’s image, even though he thinks people’s opinions in Tampa are equally split on the issue.
Jean Paul Aliaga, an electrical engineering senior, said the people have to let the system prevail and let it go through its checks and balances.
“The laws would allow this country to keep going … so it’s important to keep the process going and find out exactly what happened,” Aliaga said.
However, Aliaga said if Al-Arian is not found guilty, he should be reinstated.
Senior Aneesh Karve, a computer science major, said he was shocked by the arrest.
“I still believe that a man is innocent until proven guilty,” he said.
Karve, president for USF Amnesty International, said he has been one of the many students who have supported academic freedom at USF. Nonetheless, he said people have to give the courts a chance to sort out the facts.
“I would not stand behind Professor Al-Arian because I don’t know the facts of the case.
“This case should not set precedence for people who have been afraid of standing up for what they believe in,” Karve said.
Freshman engineering student Gregory Bitetzakis said the arrest of Al-Arian was unjust.
“From what I’ve read, I think he’s been getting too much negative publicity and attention that I don’t think he deserves,” Bitetzakis said.
“I heard he’s a good professor and a good guy.”
However, Bitetzakis said he thinks these events are going to have a negative impact on the school’s reputation.
“After this, people might not want to come here,” he said.