Associate General Secretary of the American Association of University Professors Jordan Kurland sent a letter to USF President Judy Genshaft on Jan. 26 to remind her of the commitment she made concerning the AAUP and grievances for former professor Sami Al-Arian.
“Basically he has an active appeal that has not been processed,” USF faculty union President Roy Weatherford said. “The explanation at the time was that it couldn’t be processed until the court decisions were in.”
In December, Al-Arian was found not guilty on eight of the 17 counts, including conspiracy to murder and maim people abroad and providing material support to a terrorist organization.
A mistrial was declared on the other nine charges after jurors could not reach a verdict.
USF Media Relations then released a brief statement that said, “The University of South Florida is watching the recent legal developments. USF ended Sami Al-Arian’s employment nearly three years ago, and we do not expect anything to change that.”
Kurland said these statements were misleading and went against the commitments Genshaft had agreed to in a 2003 AAUP report.
“It is anticipated that (Al-Arian) will ask the University to await the outcome of the criminal case before he proceeds with a grievance directed at the University’s actions,” Genshaft wrote.
“Once a jury returns a verdict, Dr. Al-Arian may be in a position to then participate in our process, at which time one can better assess dismissing him in light of the evidence of his activities.”
Back in 2001, USF administrators held an emergency meeting to discuss Al-Arian’s future with the University. After choosing to put Al-Arian on paid leave, the USF faculty union got involved.
“At the time, Al-Arian and his attorney chose to file an administrative grievance because they were told they could not file a union grievance,” Weatherford said. “The pending grievance is not a union grievance because at the time, the University was claiming that the faculty had lost their union rights. Now the courts have since ruled they were wrong.”
Government prosecutors have said they want to retry Al-Arian on those nine remaining counts, but no formal announcements for a retrial have been made.
“All this is in limbo depending upon what the government does or does not do next,” Kurland said. “This was the AAUP’s judgment at the appropriate time to remind President Genshaft of how things were left three years ago and to request her assurances – which I would hope and expect will be provided – that the commitments of three years ago will still be provided. We expect all people to meet commitments they have made, and we said they would not exclude university presidents from that expectation.”
Genshaft and Steven Prevaux of the USF General Council were unavailable for comment late Wednesday afternoon, and so far, the AAUP has not received a response to the letter.
But if Al-Arian is picked up by Immigrations Custom Enforcement and deported, University grievances will not be applicable.
“If he’s free to proceed and if the administration chooses to persist in trying to dismiss him, then it has to make the case before an arbitrator that there is an adequate cause for dismissing him, that he somehow abused his University position back over 10 years ago,” Kurland said. “Al-Arian was a prominent member of that faculty. He had tenure as a member of the faculty, and unless or until cause is demonstrated for removing him, he has a right to be in that faculty if the case does go to arbitration.”
According to Kurland, if Genshaft holds to her original decision to dismiss Al-Arian, then the United Faculty of Florida may take the case to a neutral arbitrator. There both parties can argue, and if either party is dissatisfied with the outcome, they issue can then be taken to the courts.