9 November 2001

Gregory Paveza

President, Faculty Senate

University of South Florida

ADM 226

Dear Professor Paveza:

The Martin Luther King Plaza occupies prize real estate on our campus. Sliced between the University Administration and the Marshall Center, it negotiates the tension between the site of power and the vibrant social and political life of the student community. The University is to be commended for the creation of this remarkable space. The name King stands for civil rights, justice, courage, dignity, and decency. The United States has not produced a finer citizen. In the face of constant and craven acts of violence—lynchings, shootings, bombings, and fires—King did not retreat. A reluctant United States had to be educated on matters of freedom. Tyranny and terror could not be allowed to cower and defeat fundamental rights and privileges. In the face of massive southern resistance, public schools and facilities were finally desegregated, and the institutions of political power were democratized. This was done despite, even because of, the violence deployed to stop it dead in its tracks.

In the aftermath of 11 September, the University of South Florida has not honored the King legacy. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that university bureaucrats would sacrifice academic freedom and the full and unfettered circulation of ideas in the name of security. After all, it is one of the oldest political gambits in the world. But the same cannot be said of the Faculty Senate. Here surprise, to say nothing of outrage, is warranted. A university professor appears on a national television talk show and is placed on administrative leave and banned from campus as a result. What does the Faculty Senate do? It passes a resolution ratifying the suppression of speech—its principled rhetoric notwithstanding. Academic freedom is not dead at USF, but it is moribund. A Hobbesian university has made it known that anyone with a phone, pen, or keyboard can make a threat against it and expect results.

Thus I would like to offer the following proposal to mark the new university. We ought to rename the Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza. Clearly the age of King is over. He no longer has a place on this campus. Given the nostalgia much of the country feels for WW II, I would suggest the plaza be renamed “19 February 1942” in honor of FDR and the day he signed Executive Order 9066 dictating the internment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans, two-thirds of whom were citizens by birth. Isnt it time for the university to be one with itself?

I respectfully resign from the Faculty Senate.


Steven Johnston