‘I can’t give this speech today’

Numbers and university accomplishments weren?t on President Judy Genshaft?s mind Thursday.

She began with the first three sentences of her more than five-page fall speech Thursday in Theatre I. And then she stopped.

?I can?t give this speech today,? she said. ?Not on a day and not on a week of such a tragic time.?

For the next 15 to 20 minutes, Genshaft would fight back tears as she told of how she?s dealt with the shock of Tuesday?s terrorist attacks.

?I?ve walked to classes. Met faculty. Been with students in dorms and cafeterias,? she said. ?We have 37,500 students at this great university. How are you all doing??

Genshaft said she?s encountered almost every emotion from those at USF: fear, sadness, wonderment, anger, love, confusion and helplessness.

?But there has been no celebration,? she said. ?Any rumor of celebration is an attack on us.?

Since two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center and a third into the Pentagon Tuesday, local radio stations have reported that USF?s Muslim community has celebrated the attacks. University officials said that is not true.

University Police Sgt. Mike Klingebiel said students should take their information from USF officials and put no stock in any rumor.

Genshaft said USF?s seal, which touts truth and wisdom, symbolizes the strength of the university.

?I?ve been so proud that so many of you have gone out to give blood,? Genshaft said. ?I have been impressed with the faculty. Thank you, faculty, for allowing your class time (to discuss Tuesday?s attacks). The University of South Florida is a community that cares.?

Genshaft said Carl Carlucci, vice president for Budgets, Human Resources and Information Technologies, had friends who died from the attacks.

When she asked the packed theatre, ?How many of you have been able to conduct business as usual?? not a single hand went up.

Sept. 11, 2001 ? the same day as Genshaft?s brother?s birthday, she said ? was ?a day of dramatic, national change.?

?We go through sad times. We go through good times,? she said. ?But we are together as one.?

Athletics Director Lee Roy Selmon said he agreed with Genshaft?s decision to give an impromptu speech.

?This is so shocking ? it was good to hear from her as our president,? he said. ?I think everyone on campus, including the students, their hearts are on the tragedy. Athletics is no different.?

Louis Vega, dean for the College of Engineering, also liked Genshaft?s remarks.

?I think that we all needed that,? he said. ?We?ve been (continuing to work) as a defense mechanism to help us deal. I think in the next two or three days, there will be a lot of reflection.?

Gregory Paveza, Faculty Senate president, said the teachers he?s been in contact with have been mindful of this week?s events and adjusted their classes accordingly.

?I think faculty are going to need to be supportive,? he said. ?Be aware of the fact the students on campus have been traumatized. But if difficulties with concentration to work persist next week, we?ll refer students to counseling.?

Robert Daugherty, dean for the College of Medicine, said there has been no need for USF doctors to travel to New York to help with relief efforts or treating victims.

?There is very little for doctors to do,? he said. ?The ERs are finding that people have either died or they walked away.?

Contact Kevin Grahamat oracleeditor@yahoo.com