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Letters to the Editor 1/9

Faculty may jump ship due to BOT

Leaders of the USF Board of Trustees argue the university should be run like a business. Business people, however, seem to be woefully misinformed about the product they are selling, the labor market that supplies its producers and the contingencies that determine success or failure.

Presently, it is the faculty and staff who are paying the price for the trustees’ ignorance. Very soon, students and their parents will be adversely affected by policies now being crafted by this group.

The damage that has already been done to USF’s reputation will diminish both the value of the degrees it confers and the power of the university to lure businesses into this area.

The trustees say they want to enhance the value of USF’s assets to make it a more competent and competitive institution of higher learning. However, their expanding assault on faculty rights is, instead, causing much harm.

USF is on the verge of being censured by the American Association of University Professors, a stain that will do far more damage than the trustees or other civic leaders of Tampa seem to understand.

A university’s reputation is paramount in attracting good students, good faculty, generous donors, external grants and all other hallmarks of success and quality. There is a lot at stake and much to lose.

Over the past 10 years, USF has gained national stature in a number of significant areas, and in the state is second only to University of Florida in the amount of external funding faculty members bring in. There are programs and faculty at USF that are internationally renowned. The progress that has been made can erode far more easily than it was achieved.

Notoriety about repressive conditions, which has been the main subject of national news reports about USF for more than a year, is very bad for faculty recruitment and retention.

Prospective faculty with choices, which are the kind you want to hire, will not choose to come to an institution that refuses to safeguard their rights. Existing faculty who are marketable enough to find other positions in friendlier environments will choose to leave.

This is not an abstract proposition. I know many faculty at USF who are looking elsewhere, who have interviewed for other jobs and some who have already accepted other positions.

Clearly, those most able to leave are the ones a smart manager would most like to retain. They tend to be the faculty who students want to learn from, who federal agencies want to fund and whose work brings distinction to the university.

The current atmosphere at USF is leading us down a short and certain path to mediocrity. I am dumfounded that business leaders are so blind to this connection. By the time it is obvious, it will be too late.

Note: According to recently enacted personnel rules, I am obliged to state that, although I work for USF, I do not speak for USF.

Susan Greenbaum is a USF professor of anthropology.

Harvard aboveacademic censure

As president of the USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, I have become accustomed to receiving criticism, insults and even threats from people who don’t share my view on the importance of academic freedom.

I try to respond to these hostile communications if they come from members of the faculty I was elected to represent. Otherwise, I try to shield my family from them and ignore them as part of the job.

This time, however, Samuel J. Nirenberg has gone too far.Accustomed as I am to being lied to by the Genshaft administration and its supporters, I really cannot tolerate in silence the most recent libel from that camp.

Harvard University is not now and never has been on the censure list of the American Association of University Professors.

As vice president of the Florida Conference for the AAUP, I was fairly confident of this fact but, in the interest of accuracy and fair play, I called Jordan Kurland, Associate General Secretary of the AAUP to confirm it. He did so.

USF can never become a good university by trying to tear down Harvard or by trying to oppress its own faculty.

If USF President Judy Genshaft and her supporters don’t want to make me really mad, they better leave my alma mater alone.

Roy C. Weatherford is a USF professor of philosophy.

Ousted professor should go home

Sami Al-Arian must continue to fight for freedom of speech, academic freedom and political freedoms in his country of birth as soon as he is fired and deported. Give him a one way ticket and let him do some good where it is really needed. Thank you.

Tim Reno is a resident of Tampa and a USF alumnus.