Dr. Abdul Rao, senior associate vice president for research at the USF College of Medicine, exhibited a severe lack of judgment Feb. 9.
Rao said he drove to the Johnnie B. Byrd Sr. Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute intending to procure a bicycle for Victor Waiters, a 45-year-old convicted criminal he described as “semi-homeless,” according to the Tampa Tribune. The act at first glance seems like a compassionate gesture to help a man in need.
There was one problem, however: The Byrd institute does not sell bicycles.
Video surveillance caught Rao and Waiters pulling up to the Byrd loading dock in a minivan. The two men exited the vehicle, and Waiters wheeled one bike from behind a railing while
Rao inspected another. Waiters then took the second — presumably more preferable — bike back to the van.
The bike belongs to Tim Boyd, a doctoral student. He had loaned it to his friend Christine Dillingham, who works at the institute and uses it to travel between classes. Dillingham said she locked the bike on Monday afternoon and when she returned to it on Tuesday morning it was missing.
In an interview with the Tribune, Rao offered his excuse for taking the bike: “Frankly, I did not know that the bike belonged to anyone. I have passed that place many times and the bikes have been sitting there, stagnant.”
It was quite an assumption on Rao’s part to believe no one owned the bike. Unfortunately for Rao, disuse of one’s property is not forfeiture of ownership.
If Rao were to pass the same parked car on his way to work each day, he would be as entitled to drive away with it as he was to stuff a USF student’s bicycle in the back of a minivan.
The bike Rao claimed was “borrowed” was eventually returned. Rao is now on paid leave pending investigation.
His situation raises many questions. Would a student be held to the same standard of law if he or she took a bicycle owned by a dean? Would the crime be less severe if the student intended to give it to a homeless person?
Though it’s admirable that Rao said he bought Waiters a bicycle three times to help the man out, this time he should’ve exercised better judgment.