Faculty problems, diminished budget define USF’s spring

There have been hirings and firings, maneuverings in the court and changes on the court. An old issue took a historic twist, and money hasn’t been far from anyone’s mind.

The spring semester at USF has featured some shocking revelations and the rehashing of old stories. It has been a time in which USF has received national and international attention, sometimes for negative reasons.

Here are a look at five of the most important stories this semester, and what developments could occur in the future.

5. Seth Greenberg leaves USF for Virginia Tech

USF men’s basketball coach Seth Greenberg departed USF for a job at perennially weak Virginia Tech. Greenberg left USF after seven seasons, during which his teams largely underachieved. His final record at USF was 108-100. He coached two squads that earned NIT berths. His teams never beat a ranked opponent.

Greenberg’s new position at Virginia Tech will pay him more than $400,000, a substantial pay increase. The Hokies were the worst team in the Big East last season, finishing with a 4-12 conference record.

The Future: Soon after Greenberg’s departure, USF hired Western Michigan head coach Robert McCullum. McCullum is regarded as an academic-minded coach. Look for him to bring discipline to a team in need of some guidance.

Don’t expect McCullum to win right away. But he has proven himself at Western Michigan, and he may be the man to turn USF around. At least, fans hope, the team will make its free throws.

As for Greenberg, his team at Virginia Tech will be terrible, and probably won’t improve very much. But, he is now at a “football school” that has low expectations for the basketball program.

4. University braces for budget cuts

With millions expected to be cut from university budgets this year, USF President Judy Genshaft warned her faculty that times will be tough. Renu Khator, then the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, went further than that. She said, if the college is faced with severe cuts, adjunct and visiting professors will see their positions eliminated. Teaching assistants will also lose jobs, and students may see their graduations delayed.

As the legislature has continued to debate the issue, the prognosis for state universities has become more bleak. Many politicians, notably Gov. Jeb Bush, have put the blame on the class size amendment, which was passed in November with a hefty price tag.

The Future: Simply put, it doesn’t look good. Khator has already said if the most severe cuts occur, summer classes will not be offered next year. Faculty and students alike are hoping it won’t get that bad but, either way, everyone will probably feel a squeeze.

Worst case scenario is that education will begin to suffer. Students may no longer be offered a quality education, and they may be stuck in school and suffer financial burdens because of unavailable classes.

3. Collective bargaining debate rages on

The faculty’s collective bargaining agreement ended Jan. 7. After months of disagreement between faculty union President Roy Weatherford and the administration, a set of 90-day emergency rules went into effect.

The life of those rules has ended, and last week the Faculty Senate adopted permanent rules. Also, Weatherford announced that the union will ask for voluntary recognition from the Board of Trustees. This will ultimately begin the bargaining process.

Weatherford, who in November said the administration is “going to screw us,” is still not happy with how the university has handled the situation. He believes the union should have been allowed to negotiate for the permanent rules. Further, he wants the university to establish a “status quo” until a new contract can be bargained.

Weatherford has said the union plans to sue the university for unfair labor practices. University officials insist they are ready to bargain and have the faculty’s interests in mind.

The Future: USF director for media relations Michael Reich has said that once voluntary recognition occurs, bargaining will be on the fast track. The bargaining process should begin in the coming months.

Who knows, however, how long this situation will continue. If the courts get involved, the issue could drag out at high cost to the university.

2. The Termination of Sami Al-Arian

For 17 months, the community waited and speculated on what Genshaft would do with former professor Sami Al-Arian, who remained on paid leave. In the end, Genshaft’s decision was essentially made for her.

Just days after his arrest on terrorism charges, Genshaft fired Al-Arian. Her reasons for the firing, however, garnered some criticism. Especially important was a clause in the termination letter that cited his fund raising for terrorism as a reason for termination. While he has been accused of that, he has not been convicted, and such a statement could be trouble for the university.

The Future: Al-Arian filed a grievance against the university almost immediately. He, however, has a criminal case to deal with. But, if he were to be acquitted by a jury, statements in the termination letter could come back to haunt the university in the form of a lawsuit.

Of immediate concern for the university will be the American Association of University Professors. The group has continually condemned the university for its actions in the Al-Arian case and threatened censure. The AAUP’s opinion changed little after the arrest.

The group meets in early June, and the USF matter may be a topic of discussion.

1. Sami Al-Arian is indicted on terrorism charges

On Feb. 20, Al-Arian awoke before dawn when his wife, Nahla, came running down the hall from the front door.

“They’re here,” Nahla told her husband.

With that, Al-Arian’s freedom came to an end. He would soon learn that the government had filed a 120-page indictment against him and six others accusing him of being the North American head of the terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Since the arrest, Al-Arian has been refused bail and has been transferred to the Coleman Federal Correctional Facility in Sumter County.

Al-Arian is still in that facility awaiting the next step in his legal process.

The Future: The trial, according to federal judge Thomas McCoun, is probably two years away. During that time, multiple lawyers will spend a small fortune to prepare the case. Al-Arian will remain in prison for those two years.

Ultimately, Al-Arian’s fate will be decided by a jury. If he is guilty of the charges against him, he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.