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USF must answer to student’s demands

Administrators can run, but they can’t hide.

USF students are demanding answers. They are demanding their concerns be addressed. Campus streets must be made safer. University officials must be responsible for their actions. Those who are asked questions must respond.

More than 70 students joined student body President Garin Flowers and Vice President Faran Abbasi at a sit-in protest outside the Administration building Tuesday afternoon, and for more than two hours they sat and waited for a University official to come out and answer their questions.

Unsurprisingly, no one did.

USF spokesman Ken Gullette told the Oracle, “Just because we’re not coming out in public and saying anything doesn’t mean we’re not listening.” Knowing about this planned sit-in since Monday, President Judy Genshaft and Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall were conveniently unreachable during the time. They thought – if they did show – it would be “a distraction to the media.”

Is a distraction to the media more important than answers for concerned students? Genshaft, Meningall and other University officials are directly responsible for these students, but a “media distraction” kept them locked away in meetings and mingling at lunches?

The allegations and questions have progressed beyond the listening stage. There has been enough buzz and press surrounding the dissatisfaction with the management of Student Affairs – University Police’s claims of insufficient funding, Meningall’s alleged mismanagement of funds, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs James Dragna’s claims that Meningall intimidated employees and gave jobs to old friends, his contention he lost his job for blowing the whistle, and Genshaft’s dance around important questions – that is already common knowledge. It’s as common as knowing that smoking isn’t healthy. Listening time is over. The students have vociferously expressed their concerns. It’s time administrators started addressing the issues.

University leaders are ignoring the questions at hand to shield their faces from the supposedly vicious media, but it’s students who get hurt in the end. For those who live on campus, this is their home, their neighborhood. Students should feel safe walking around the dorms during the night, but UP’s lack of presence doesn’t allow that. It’s not right, nor is it fair – especially for students who moved far away from home to come to USF. They’re out of their comfort zone and away from what’s familiar to them, so it’s only right the University protect them from outside dangers.

Yet the University doesn’t think this applies to those who live either on or off campus. Every student has safety concerns. Most drive here, and walking back to the car after class gets out at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. is not as safe as it could be. Anyone – student, staff and faculty alike – should be concerned when walking around campus after the sun sets. According to UP’s safety guide, three rapes and 38 burglaries occurred on campus in 2006.

Things could be worse, and USF does have lower rape rates than some other universities. Regardless, that’s nothing to be proud about. Low rape rates are still rape rates. These numbers should be disturbing to all University officials. It’s saddening when the place that fosters the steppingstone between childhood and adulthood doesn’t provide the required safety standards. I understand that USF isn’t a gated community in Beverly Hills, but the University has its own police force. Since they are the only ones responsible for USF students, they should be given the resources to do their job.

A university is responsible for its students – responsible for their education and responsible for protecting them while they receive such education. Genshaft and Meningall are not upholding this responsibility by refusing to talk to students about it.

Besides, top administrators shouldn’t let the media scare them away from their top priorities.

Amy Mariani is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.