The choice of words wouldn’t have changed. And the tone of her voice would have been just as stern.
Even though it’s been more than a year, she doesn’t know for sure if USF administration used layoffs as a way to silence her opinions.
For 10 years Mary Poole had responsibilities at USF that she said made significant contributions to the university.
As former director for the leadership program Excel, Poole said she was upset when the university decided to no longer fund the organization, which gave women and minorities the opportunity to be placed in leadership positions.
Poole, who was the work-life coordinator in Human Resources, said she wrote a letter to USF President Judy Genshaft stating her concerns with the university. But that wasn’t the first time Poole expressed her opinions at the university.
So, when Poole received her layoff notice in June, she said she feared the administration abolished her position because of her complaints and previous opinions, which she claims her supervisor told her were “too extreme.”
But a month before she was laid off, Poole said she met with Genshaft informally and expressed her concerns once again with the university.
“I told her that the morale at this university was the worst I’ve ever seen it in my 10 years here,” Poole said. “She asked me why. And I told her because of the atmosphere here and the way people are treated.”
Genshaft said she recalled meeting with Poole, but the discussions had nothing to do with her being laid off.
“I had no idea that position was going to be eliminated,” Genshaft said. “I had no knowledge whatsoever.”
Genshaft said she was getting a cup of coffee at the Phyllis P. Marshall Center when she saw Poole and asked her if she would like to sit and talk.
“We talked back and forth, and she told me some things,” Genshaft said.
After Poole’s position in Human Resources was abolished, Genshaft said she was notified by Poole, who expressed how she felt about the situation.
“She wrote me a brief e-mail that said her job had been discontinued,” Genshaft said. “I told her that I’m sorry to hear that. But there’s no relationship between me sitting and having a cup of coffee and the e-mail she wrote me.”
But Poole said she thinks other complaints she made about the university were forwarded to Genshaft through her supervisor.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Poole said a co-worker made a threatening statement about Muslims.
Poole said she responded with obscene language, which prompted a chiding from her supervisor.
“I guess when you say the word f— at work, it’s not appropriate … but frankly I would say it again,” Poole said.
After that comment Poole said Sandra Conway, acting director for Human Resources, told her that her opinions were “too extreme,” and that she was disturbing people.
Conway did not return a message left for her on Tuesday.
At the time, Poole was in her fourth year in the Human Resources department. But before then, Poole served as the director for the Victim’s Advocacy Program for five years and was head of a task force that eventually established The USF Family Center. Poole said she was the principal investigator of a $500,000 grant the center was awarded so students could have affordable child care.
Poole said she was laid off as a result of her opinions against the war on terrorism because she questioned the administration’s power with her co-workers.
“I was here for 10 1/2 years, and I’ve made some contributions to the university,” Poole said. “Layoffs are a tool that can be used in this type of environment against you.”
But Genshaft said layoffs are done in a professional manner.
“Everybody makes contributions to this university,” Genshaft said. “I had no knowledge of any of this.”