President Judy Genshaft and other university leaders took action Friday by suspending computer science and engineering professor Sami Al-Arian with pay because he received death threats after appearing on Fox News? The O?Reilly Factor on Wednesday. The professor has been accused of having ties to terrorist organizations.
While administrators stepped up to the plate in the name of campus safety by suspending Al-Arian, they failed to come face-to-face with host Bill O?Reilly on his show Friday to defend the university?s reputation.
Instead, student body president Mike Griffin accepted O?Reilly?s invitation. If anyone was to respond to numerous allegations swarming the campus, it should have been Genshaft ? not a student.
As O?Reilly fired questions at Griffin, many of Griffin?s answers began with phrases such as “To the best of my knowledge” and “I believe.”
Griffin did the best he could, but it was the responsibility of the administrators to come forth and explain their actions. Although Genshaft had a news conference Friday to explain the university?s actions, it would have been better for USF?s reputation if an administrator had appeared on O?Reilly?s show to confront the allegations.
Michael Reich, spokesman for USF, said the show contacted his office Friday afternoon for interviews with Genshaft and Provost S. David Stamps. But because of time conflicts with other interviews, Reich said they were unable to appear.
Whatever the reason, there is a national audience demanding answers from USF?s decision makers. Reputation is everything. If faculty and staff want USF to be a nationally recognized research institution, then they need to provide answers when the national recognition is not positive.
Without the official voice of the university, viewers were left to formulate their own opinions. A top-tier research institution should also be giving the public top-tier answers.