Senior James Walker walked into USF President Judy Genshaft’s office fed up, frustrated and, most importantly, uninvited. Minutes later, he left handcuffed.
For the past five months, Walker has repeatedly attempted to meet face-to-face with Genshaft to discuss issues he was having with on-campus housing.
“I was frustrated and was not going to be handled this time like they handled me the previous five times,” Walker said.
So on Monday, Walker walked into the Administration building, bypassed Genshaft’s assistant without halting and marched straight into the president’s empty office.
Genshaft’s assistant promptly called University Police, and Walker was arrested when he refused to leave the office, according to a University Police report.
“I said ‘No, I’m not leaving,'” Walker said. “I sat on the couch and said, ‘She’s not here, fine, I’ll wait for her.’ I was peacefully and quietly waiting.
“I told them, ‘You’re arresting a student who wants to see his president.'”
According to Media Relations Interim Director Lara Wade, Genshaft has a forum once a month in which she talks with students and has made it a tradition to mingle with students on the first day of new semesters.
“For different issues there are different channels. This student was given those channels and chose not to do so,” Wade said. “There’s a procedure when you want to meet with the president and this student didn’t follow it.”
Walker was arrested for disruption of an educational institution and trespassing in a structure or conveyance, both misdemeanors. He was taken to Hillsborough County’s Orient Road Jail but was released without being booked and given a date to appear in court. He’s also not allowed anywhere near the Administration building.
Walker said everything started during summer 2005, his first term at USF, when he resided at Kosove Hall. He said he missed a flight home because the move-out date was not made clear to him in time.
Things got worse in the fall semester of 2005 when Walker moved into Magnolia Apartments. When he complained of problems such as broken washers and dryers as well as loud music, he said he was bounced around campus, from department to department, in search of answers.
“I’m paying thousands of dollars to attend this school,” he said “All I wanted is what they promised. It seemed like their mentality was ‘Just tell him something and he’ll go away.'”
When Walker decided not to live in Magnolia for the spring 2006 semester, he was told by housing that he owed a total of $1,700 because he broke his contract. When he refused to pay, he said he was sent to Student Affairs, which Walker said agreed to reimburse the money. He said he received a check for $1,280.
Then, while attempting to get the rest of the money, he said he was given the cold shoulder. That’s when he decided to see Genshaft, whom he’d been blocked from five times before, one way or another.
“I didn’t think I’d be arrested, but I don’t regret it,” Walker said. “I would do it again.”