of University of South Florida President Judy Genshaft
December 19, 2001
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In the hours since the Board of Trustees adjourned this morning, I have reviewed Mr. Gonzalez's report in light of concerns raised by trustees. I have discussed these issues with the Provost, Vice Presidents and Deans of the University, Distinguished Professors, the President of the United Faculty of Florida, legislators, the Florida Board of Education, students, staff, alumni, community leaders and other supporters of our institution.
After reflection on the events of the fall, the information presented to the Board today and the counsel of many people, I have come to a conclusion about the fundamental question of how much disruption the University must endure because of the manner in which a professor exercises his right to express political and social views that are outside the scope of his employment.
Academic freedom is revered at USF. We understand that our scholars must be free to pursue ideas in their academic field wherever they may lead, without fear of political reprisal if they express disturbing ideas. All of us who accept the responsibilities of university leadership understand our professors sometimes spark controversy in their research and teaching. If this were about the freedom accorded faculty in their research and teaching, we would be honor-bound to fight to protect academic freedom. As our Collective Bargaining Agreement with the faculty and the American Association of University Professors principles make clear, academic freedom protects the pursuit of ideas in a faculty member's field of academic expertise.
Dismissal of a tenured faculty member is a very serious step, one that is not contemplated lightly. At USF, we respect the right of faculty to express their personal views on controversial subjects, with the understanding that it must be clear they are speaking for themselves and not for the University. In this case, I have recognized my great responsibility to fully consider both the welfare of the University Community and Dr. Al-Arian's rights of expression.
The reports to the Board today indicated the extent to which this situation continues to disrupt the affairs of the University. This controversy over Dr. Al-Arian is consuming resources of many divisions of the University, and based on information presented to trustees today, it will continue to do so as long as the current arrangement continues. The University Police advise that we cannot guarantee the safety of Dr. Al-Arian and students, faculty and staff around him if he were back on campus.
After much thought, I have come to the sad conclusion that if Dr. Al-Arian remains an employee of the University, the certainty of prolonged disruption of the University and the continuing threat to our students, faculty and staff is profoundly real.
Therefore, I have instructed our Office of Academic Affairs to notify Dr. Al-Arian of the University's intent to terminate his employment. A letter was delivered to his home this afternoon. He will have 10 days in which to respond.
I would like
to thank Chairman Beard and the Board for their support and dedication to
this university's continuing development as a major research university. Although
there are many opinions about this action, I am confident that the Board,
the faculty, the students and the staff will retain our unity of purpose for
this institution: Building a great University of South Florida to support
the development of the Tampa Bay Region, Florida, the United States and the
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