As of May 1, retired Gen. Tommy Franks will join the ranks of past USF President Betty Castor and former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, as he will be rewarded an honorary doctorate degree from USF. In spite of resistance from the USF faculty, the USF Board of Trustees approved the controversial nomination Thursday, again opening the rift between USF’s administration and faculty.
Many faculty members are upset because they feel that they weren’t consulted to give away what they have worked very hard for, while others just flat out don’t feel Franks is deserving of the award. Regardless, one would have hoped that the faculty and administration at USF had put their discrepancies behind them, following the treatment of the Sami Al-Arian case and the outfall over the faculty collective bargaining agreement. It would appear, however, to be otherwise even though the administration vowed that it had learned from past mistakes.
Last February, faculty members and administration were debating over what is and isn’t protected by academic freedom. After Genshaft made the move to fire Al-Arian via the prompting of the BOT, the faculty was up in arms over what it felt was an action contrary to what academic freedom should protect.
In the wake of the one year anniversary of Al-Arian’s arrest, both sides had appeared to have developed respect for each other.
“I think we understand each other,” said Dick Beard, BOT chairman.
If the two bodies have a mutual understanding of one another, why then would Genshaft feel the need to completely go over the heads of the faculty yet again?
“It’s been done this way for decades,” Genshaft said of not letting faculty members consider academic nominations. “Now we’ll look at different ways.”
After the fallout from past disputes had been put to rest, it was generally hoped that such clashes of faculty and administration could be avoided in the future. But as what USF Faculty Senate President Elizabeth Bird told the St. Petersburg Times was a “spirited discussion” proved, there is still bad blood and procedural rules that are not being followed.
An obvious lack of communication remains between the faculty and administration at USF. Whether or not these deviations stem from unresolved issues with the Al-Arian case, it is apparent that collective bargaining or just a blatant disregard for respect of the two entities for each other is unimportant. Both parties, however, have to understand that such bickering and infighting has to stop.