Faculty, staff and students paid tribute April 29 as Multicultural Activities held a rededication ceremony to honor the return of the Martin Luther King Jr. bust. On April 4, the bust was returned to the MLK Plaza with hopes that its second round of repairs will be the last.
Although it was held as a result of a crime, the ceremony focused on the importance of diversity and stressed the goals King strived for during the civil rights movement. USF President Judy Genshaft said it is important to have commitment to diversity and inclusiveness nationwide.
“Today we have the opportunity to rededicate ourselves to the very principles that this sculpture represents,” Genshaft said.
Also in attendance was Harold Nixon, vice president of Student Affairs. Nixon acknowledged the need to rededicate King’s principles. And unfortunately, because of this incident, he said, it is obvious that King’s ideals have not been fully realized.
“Let us rededicate ourselves to making this sometimes crazy, mixed-up world of ours a better place to live, a good wholesome life for all of us,” Nixon said.
The bust returned after undergoing repair estimated at $10,000. It was removed Feb. 7 when a Physical Plant official noticed that someone had apparently used a crowbar to attempt to pry the bust off of its base, lifting the metal anchors. The bust was first tampered with in November when it was tossed into the reflection pool.
USF student Sylvester Pittman said each time he walked past the empty pedestal he burned inside.
“Do the fires of racism still burn in the hearts of some individuals so much as to inspire them to commit such an offensive act?” Pittman said.
La’Farrah Davis, a student, said the damages to the bust will be an unfortunate part of USF’s history.
“The acts of the individuals who vandalized the bust of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will not be forgotten,” she said.
Davis added that USF should “genuinely reflect on the significant contribution that Dr. King strived to achieve in this world,” using the bust itself as a tool for this reflection.
Sgt. Mike Klingebiel, spokesman for the University Police, said his department took the necessary steps to enhance the security of the bust and the plaza. He said the bust received “engineering repairs” and technology was now being employed to harden the security, but would not comment on specifics. Initially a suspect was apprehended in the first incident and in the second incident, to date, no one has been charged. Klingebiel remains optimistic and stressed that the case is not yet closed, but all the possible leads have been eliminated at this time.