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A summer of changes and controversy

With budget cutbacks and fewer classes offered, there were perhaps fewer students on campus this summer than there have been in past years.

But while many students returned home, worked or just took a vacation, the USF administration spent the summer embroiled in controversy, making several key decisions that will affect student tuition and fees.

At the center of much of the news was the impending matter of controversial professor Sami Al-Arian, who has been on paid leave for nearly a year now. USF president Judy Genshaft alone was forced to make decisions on what to do with Al-Arian.

Because of issues such as these, USF made headlines throughout the summer both regionally and nationally. Here is a look at some of the key news stories that took place while you were away.

May 10

State and county government officials and cancer survivors came together to cut the ribbon on the $9 million Tampa Hope Lodge. The 47,000-square-foot lodge, located adjacent to the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, was created to provide patients a supportive living environment while they endure the rigors of cancer treatment. The structure, which took a year to build, is the 18th of its kind nationwide.

May 13

Gordon England, secretary of the U.S. Navy, led a list of distinguished guests that arrived on campus to dedicate USF’s new Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps unit. USF became the 58th institution with a naval ROTC and has now gained the distinction of being one of a select few institutions with programs from three military branches.

May 15

Jack Ruckdeschel, who served as director for the Moffitt Center for 10 years, resigned suddenly. The resignation came after a vote by the Moffitt board of directors not to renew his contract. Jack Pledger, who had been appointed deputy center director, is now serving as interim director.

May 16

It took just 20 minutes for the USF Board of Trustees to decide to raise parking decal fees for the fall semester. The annual rate will rise from $100 to $105 and the semester rate from $50 to $53. The increased revenue will be used to finance a $14.7-million parking structure to be built on one of the lots adjacent to the library. USF student body president Mike Griffin was the only BOT member to vote against the resolution. Griffin argued that the increase, coming on the heels of a $2-per-credit hour parking and transportation access fee that will be implemented this fall, is too much for students already strapped for cash.

May 22

USF French professor Eugene Scruggs was awarded the prestigious Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes Academiques by the French government. The award, inaugurated by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1808, is given to scholars who have made a significant contribution to French culture, language or art.

May 23

USF anthropology professor Nancy White and her students excavated a site of early human habitation found behind the Parking and Transportation Services building. Among the finds were chips of stone and pottery, probably dating back between 1,000 and 2,000 years.

June 1

Three protesters from the National Organization for Women were arrested while protesting outside of a Promise Keepers event held at the Sun Dome. The Promise Keepers group has been the center of controversy for several years, mainly because no women are allowed to attend the conferences. The group says it helps men become better husbands and fathers, while dissenters say it creates an atmosphere of male dominance.

At least 8,000 men attended the conference held at the Sun Dome. The three NOW protesters were arrested when they ventured outside of their designated protest area. One was also charged with resisting arrest.

June 7

Protesters rallied outside the Coleman Correctional Facility in Sumter County, calling for the immediate release of Mazen Al-Najjar.

Al-Najjar, a former USF adjunct professor, has been in prison since November awaiting deportation. His lawyers argued that he could not be held for more than six months without evidence that he provides a substantial danger to society.

Al-Najjar is the brother-in-law of Al-Arian.

June 11

The Student Government Senate passed a resolution to oppose the levying of an increased parking decal fee on top of a $2-per-credit-hour access fee. The resolution calls for Parking and Transportation Services to find a more equitable solution for students.

June 13

The Oracle reported that John Loftus, former head of the Florida Holocaust Museum, saw his infamous lawsuit against Sami Al-Arian thrown out. Loftus, who alleges Al-Arian is a high-ranking member of the terrorist organization Jihad, sued the professor in April. Al-Arian has repeatedly brushed aside Loftus’ claims, calling him a lunatic.

June 17

Bill Heller, Campus Executive Officer for USF St. Petersburg for the past 10 years, announced his resignation in early June. After a few weeks, it was determined that his departure was not exactly his idea.

Genshaft and members of the St. Petersburg board of directors were behind a plan that forced Heller from his office. Michael Reich, media director for the university, had said the departure was mutually agreed upon. Heller said he had originally planned to resign in a year.

June 21

In an emergency meeting of the USF Board of Trustees held by conference call, board members voted to approve tuition increases for the fall semester of 2002. The increases for resident undergraduates and graduates are 5 and 10 percent respectively. For out-of-state students, tuition will be raised as much as 20 percent.

June 24

The Oracle reported that the company Aramark was awarded the new food service contract at USF. The contract, which will run for five years, is said to be worth $14 million. Aramark will begin serving on-campus meals as classes start.

June 25

The Moffitt Cancer Center received the largest private donation in its history. Vincent Stabile, an 85-year-old retired industrialist, donated $15 million to the center.

In St. Petersburg, Genshaft announced Ralph Wilcox would replace Bill Heller, serving as interim CEO. Wilcox has worked in Genshaft’s office for the past year as an American Council on Education Fellow.

July 1

Students using USF’s dial-up connection from off-campus locations were forced to start paying for the service. Information Technologies began charging students $5.99 per month for basic dial-up following budget cuts that, officials said, have seriously hurt their finances.

John Loftus refiles his lawsuit against Sami Al-Arian, citing new, secret evidence linking Al-Arian to terrorist ties. The lawsuit claims Al-Arian is head of Jihad in the United States, and is second only to known member Ramadan Abdullah Shallah, who is also a former USF adjunct professor. Loftus said he can further link Al-Arian to the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

July 9

The Moffitt Cancer Center named William Dalton as its new director. Dalton, 52, holds both a medical degree and Ph.D., and is considered an expert on multiple myeloma. He was chosen for Moffitt while serving as dean of the medical school at the University of Arizona.

July 12

Protesters descended on the offices of The Tampa Tribune in support of Sami Al-Arian. The rally, which was watched closely by the Tampa Police Department, was in response to the newspaper’s June 23 article, which fingered Al-Arian as a member of Jihad. The article, written by Michael Fechter, came under fire for its use of unnamed sources within Israeli intelligence.