It could be seen from a distance Wednesday that USF would be the center of another news story.
But as USF President Judy Genshaft announced in the Special Events Center her decision to fire professor Sami Al-Arian, some didn’t realize that decision would come this week.
Gregory McColm, professor of mathematics and a member of the faculty union, said he didn’t think Genshaft would make her decision so soon after Al-Arian’s indictment.
“I think that (the faculty union) is going to have to look at the situation very carefully,” McColm said. “The union’s position is that the university should follow some kind of due process.”
McColm said he doesn’t understand why the termination outlines allegations from the 120-page indictment, which accuses Al-Arian of ties to terrorism, when it has yet to be presented in court.
“All I can say about the indictment is it’s a list of charges, not evidence,” McColm said. “It is merely a statement to the court that the grand jury has reviewed evidence.”
McColm said in the future the Board of Trustees and Genshaft need to have better consultation regarding termination of a tenured professor.
“I think there has been very little communication between faculty and the BOT,” McColm said. “I don’t think the Board of Trustees understands what they’re dealing with.”
Genshaft said she has consulted with faculty, students and staff extensively during the 18 months since Al-Arian was placed on paid leave Sept. 28.
“That’s if you imply sending out letters of termination after consulting with someone,” McColm said. “But in most respectable places, they have a system where it’s not just one person making up their mind.”
However, Mike Griffin, student body president and BOT member, pointed out the Board voted a year ago to recommend firing Al-Arian.
Griffin said he has supported Genshaft from the beginning.
“He’s an evil individual,” Griffin said. “And, quite frankly, her leadership showed through and through today.”
Griffin said he also agrees with Genshaft that Al-Arian has used academic freedom as a shield.
“This has never been an issue of academic freedom,” Griffin said.
Griffin said the issue of academic freedom doesn’t make a strong defense for Al-Arian as a computer science engineering professor.
“If he was a political science or international relations professor, I could see the argument a little more clearer,” Griffin said. “It was a whisper of defense and, quite frankly, it’s unfortunate he abused that.”