Letters to the Editor 10/3

University should rally behind Al-Arian

Although the wisdom of Prof. Al-Arian’s decision to appear on The O’Reilly Factor can be and clearly is being debated, there are two elements of President Genshaft’s response that I find deeply troubling.

In her letter about campus safety that appeared in The Oracle, she states: “Dr. Al-Arian does not speak for the university and it is incorrect to suggest that his views represent USF in any fashion.”Because he is a professor and hence a member of the USF community, by definition he is speaking for USF.

President Genshaft may not like what he is saying, and it may not represent the views of the administration or other faculty members (for those of you who haven’t seen the show, please read a transcript before passing judgement on the appropriateness of what Dr. Al-Arian said). However, the university is not, and should never become, a monolith.

On a huge range of issues, hopefully there is (and should be) a multitude of opinions on this campus.

Those differences should be supported and encouraged by the university’s administration; any attempt to push for conformity is far more damaging and more threatening to USF’s reputation than that attributed to Dr. Al-Arian.

Additionally, there are numerous fears that a “corporate culture” is overtaking universities, and hopefully this is not a further sign that voices that express opinions other than that of the administration will be silenced.

Furthermore, the fact that President Genshaft failed to castigate those that actually made the threats to USF meant that she did not effectively address the actual source of the safety threat to the university.

It should not be overlooked that the threat to USF was not Al-Arian; it was his presence on campus and the response to that presence by American-born terrorists (I assume), such as “Delbert Goon” (see Wright’s political cartoon in Monday’s Oracle).I hope that not addressing this critical issue was an oversight in the haste to respond, because the lack of a statement on that issue could be viewed by those wishing to harm and intimidate Dr. Al-Arian as vindication of their methods.

Finally, I think that USF’s actions need to be judged against what Karl Rove, one of President Bush’s top advisers, feels were the goals of the WTC terrorists, “I think what they’re trying to do is to cower our society … I think they’re attempting to undermine its openness and its freedom and its ability to dissent, to be different. I think they’re attempting to force America back into itself. To make America tepid and afraid to the world. To destroy our confidence and our society” [The New Yorker, Oct. 1, 2001, p. 74].

I’m afraid that based on what President Genshaft has written, USF may be losing the “war.”

  • Peter J. Harries is anassociate professor in the Department of Geology.

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