‘Campus Joe’ is a biweekly’column from Oracle columnist Joe Polito that explores random spots on USF’s campus. How does it work? Polito throws a dart at a large campus map and goes there to find a story.
The dart gods smiled on me this week when it landed dead center on USF’s campus, behind the Marshall Student Center. By my estimation, this was the Martin’Luther King Jr. (MLK) Plaza.
Located in the heart of’campus, MLK Plaza is a shrine to the most famous civil-rights’leader in American history, as’well as a gathering spot for’students by its rectangular reflection pool and several fountains.
A bust of King stands on one side of the pool and faces a stone mantle on which is written the words of his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Benches are set up around the pool for those who wish to read, eat or relax in a’serene setting.
When I arrived, I met junior Andrew Kaiser reading a philosophy book. He said he often visits the plaza to read and study.
‘I like the water – it kind of tunes everything else out. You don’t hear all the chatter, like in the Marshall Center,’ Kaiser said.
On the next bench, senior transfer student Megan Widhalm snacked on Burger King. She said it was her first time at the plaza but she enjoyed the peaceful sounds of the fountain.
Few had much to say about King or his message, which surprised me since the entire school had Monday off in his honor.
If I learned anything from these interviews, it may just be that USF students love the sound of’running water.
Then things got interesting.
I noticed her almost immediately, wearing a recognizable green jacket. It was USF President Judy Genshaft and two other school officials strolling past me through the plaza. I hoped luck would grant me an exclusive’interview.
It did. I informed them of my column and how the dart had chosen MLK plaza as my random spot this week.
‘ ‘I’m always in a random spot,’ Genshaft said.
Genshaft said she is proud USF is doing things to keep King’s dream alive – everything from Saturday’s Stampede of Service event to the donations and aid students are sending to Haiti.
‘It’s all a part of what Martin Luther King stood for,’ she said.
Vice President of Student’Affairs Jennifer Meningall said she’s made it her New Year’s resolution to sit and reflect by the’fountains and talk to students at least once a day.
‘I haven’t quite kept that’promise,’ she said. ‘I’ve been back a couple times, but it’s like one of those New Year’s resolutions that dies really quickly. But we walk through it a lot.’
Genshaft said that King’s’message of equality for all people is personified in the USF student body’s diversity.
‘That’s what this university is about,’ she said. ‘We represent diversity very well.’