After more than eight months of deliberation, USF President Judy Genshaft finally decided to officially announce what she plans to do about Professor Sami Al-Arian – nothing. What an absolute letdown and step backward for both the university president and the university itself. It is disheartening to know that when the university truly needs leadership, it has none. Genshaft should have made a decision herself Wednesday about what to do with Al-Arian instead of throwing it to a third-party judge.
Since Genshaft announced USF’s intent to fire Al-Arian Dec. 19, she has promised to make a decision before the current fall term. For eight long months, students, faculty, the nation and even the world has waited for Genshaft’s decision. However, it never came. Her lackluster press conference Wednesday gave her the opportunity to shirk her duty as university president. Claiming she is “an educator, not an investigator,” Genshaft foisted the responsibility onto a third-party judge who will decide whether Al-Arian should be fired.
Genshaft should have been the one to decide the fate of her university. Whether she decided to fire or keep him, she should have made a decision and stuck to it to show her ability to be strong and decisive during times of crisis. She tried in October to show she could be decisive when she quickly announced Al-Arian should be suspended after his now infamous appearance on The O’Reilly Factor. However, she was unable to follow through last week.
Genshaft could have made this decision Dec. 19 or in January. She certainly did not need eight months to determine that she could not make a decision. Eight months to determine Al-Arian’s fate should have been plenty of time – she had the facts, the time, the consequences, and the opportunity to be 100 percent sure what the fate of her university would be. Now no one knows what will happen and it may be years before anyone does.