Graduate Assistants United voted unanimously on Tuesday to support the resolution passed by the faculty union last week supporting Sami Al-Arian should he choose to take legal action against the university.
Jodi Nettleton, president for the group that represents about 1,500 graduate assistants, said though an official statement was posted to the USF Talk listserv, she has yet to hear any feedback from the administration.
GAU is a sister union of the USF chapter of the United Faculty of Florida.
On Jan. 16, the Faculty Senate voted not to support President Judy Genshaft’s decision to fire Al-Arian. The following day, the faculty union passed the resolution to support Al-Arian’s legal battle to get his job back.
Al-Arian received a letter of intent to terminate Dec. 19, hours after the Board of Trustees recommended that Genshaft fire him.
On Tuesday, the Student Government senate voted to support Genshaft in her decision, the first representative entity on campus to do so since Al-Arian was informed of the president’s plans to terminate his employment.
Nettleton criticized the SG senate and student body president Mike Griffin for misrepresenting graduate students.She said one reason why the senate might have voted the way it did was intimidation.
“There’s a fear factor,” Nettleton said. “A lot of the faculty members are in the same boat, fearing the repercussions of what they say.”
Griffin, who is also a member of the BOT, was criticized by another student group’s president.
Anthony Brooks, chairman for the Coalition of Progressive Student Organizations, which voted on Jan. 9 to not support Genshaft’s decision, said in a news release on Wednesday that Griffin has “failed his students.”
But Griffin disagreed, saying that his decision as a trustee to vote to recommend that Genshaft fire Al-Arian wasn’t politically motivated.
“Making no decision at all -now that would have been failing the students,” Griffin said.
Griffin said he met off campus shortly with Al-Arian, after he was put on paid leave in late September, to get to know him as a person.
He said knowing Al-Arian on a personal level further proved that he did not cave in to his emotions during the Dec. 19 meeting.
Since Dec. 19, four organizations on campus have voted, in one way or another, to not support Genshaft’s decision, while one, Student Government senate, voted Tuesday to support her. But Michael Reich, spokesman for the university, said the issue is more divided than it seems.
Reich said the president receives support both in e-mails and phone calls everyday. He said there is no timetable as to when Genshaft will render a final decision concerning Al-Arian. He said her decision whether to fire Al-Arian is by no means “a forgone conclusion,” and he said Genshaft is “taking his response very seriously.”
Since Monday’s response by Al-Arian, when he said he’ll fight to keep his job, Reich said Genshaft has actively sought more opinions from the faculty and students.
“The president needs to make a very difficult decision,” Reich said. “All of the input she is receiving is important.”
When asked if he’d support the president if she chooses to overturn her initial decision and reinstate Al-Arian, Griffin said:”That is something that I’d have to discuss with the senate.”
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