USF President Judy Genshaft is in a lose-lose situation when it comes to rendering a decision concerning USF’s controversial professor Sami Al-Arian.
But by at least entertaining the concerns of the faculty before determining the fate of the tenured professor, she will silence much of the criticism she received for making her initial decision to pursue his termination in December, with only a recommendation from the Board of Trustees.
Genshaft said in an Oracle report Tuesday that she would wait for a preliminary recommendation from the American Association of University Professors, and that is commendable. But in addition, once she has reviewed the report – which should indicate the general feeling of the AAUP and give her a good idea of whether it plans to pursue a censure of the university – she should share the report with faculty groups, such as the Faculty Senate and USF’s faculty union in order to gain their insights.
Some sympathize with Genshaft because she inherited the Al-Arian problem only a year and a half after she became USF’s president.
Genshaft now finds herself torn between those who feel she is stepping on the First Amendment – and consequently academic freedom – and those who think Al-Arian, who is under investigation by the FBI, is nothing but a fiery-tongued, hate monger.
If she decides to fire him, chances are the AAUP will brand USF with a censure, an ignominious distinction typically assigned to only one or two universities per year nationwide.
If she decides to reinstate him, she will undoubtedly be criticized for wavering on an important decision and will undoubtedly have to answer to the BOT, who will have to answer to Gov. Jeb Bush, the man who appointed 10 of them.
Genshaft can’t please everybody, but sharing the AAUP’s initial findings will go a long way in proving she is not a president motivated by politics but a president concerned with the feelings of her faculty.