AAUP votes not to take further action against USF

The American Association of University Professors, the national group that condemned USF in June 2003 for its handling of former professor Sami Al-Arian, announced that it plans on watching the developments occurring at USF.

The AAUP investigative committee that was handed the case voted again on June 12 not to take any further action against USF at this time.

According to a statement by AAUP Associate General Secretary Jordan E. Kurland, the decision not to pursue sanctions against USF was made because “the university administration has shown its recognition of a significant failing by changing university procedures to require now a peer hearing prior to dismissal.”

Nearly a year ago, the group, which has 40,000 members, voted to condemn the university and USF President Judy Genshaft by saying the university surmounted the “normal procedures of academic due process” and that by firing Al-Arian just days after his arrest, USF violated the “cardinal American principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty.'”

Michelle Carlyon, spokeswoman for USF, said Genshaft received the report from the AAUP June 12 meeting, but had not issued a statement to comment on it.

However, Kurland noted in the letter that he would touch base with USF early in the fall, prior to the investigating committee’s next meeting.

The AAUP first took issue with USF in late 2001 when Genshaft moved to fire Al-Arian. On Sept. 26, 2001, only two weeks after the attacks on the World Trade Center, Al-Arian appeared on Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor and was questioned about his long-standing terrorist links.

About two days later, the Computer Science and Engineering Building where Al-Arian taught was evacuated after the school received a series of death threats. Later that day, Genshaft placed Al-Arian on paid leave, citing his and the school’s safety as reasons.

On Dec. 19, 2001, Genshaft wrote to the USF Board of Trustees and recommended that the former computer science professor be terminated.

In March 2001, the AAUP sent a three-member committee to USF to investigate the situation and, following a second visit in April 2002, the committee spent the remaining 10 months writing a report condemning USF.

Al-Arian was arrested in February 2003 and was charged in a 50-count federal indictment with conspiracy to commit murder and providing material to support terrorism. Al-Arian pleaded not guilty and is awaiting his January 2005 trail.