A Shadow over New York
On September 11, 2001, terrorists destroyed two buildings and damaged a third,
while killing over 3,000 people.
It was the single greatest loss of American life due to violence in a day since
the Civil War, and it left the nation in schock.
The University of South Florida
closed for the day, but still a few people
Standing in a porch with fellow academics in front of an empty parking lot,
we tried to make some sense of it.
OVERHEARD THAT DAY ON CAMPUS
It makes you afraid to fly or go into tall buildings.
That's the point. To make us afraid.
In the following days, USF Faculty helped reassure, explain, and educate
students about this situation, and this kind of situation.
One professor discussed the possible fall-out with his class, and talked
about how the wars between ancient Greece and the Persian Empire can
give us hints on what is to come.
One professor told of how a Russian mathematician, suffering from cancer,
kept his mind of the pain by doing mathematics.
Faculty stood on familiar ground while trying to make sense of it all.
And there were a number of campus reactions and activities as
USF responded to the national
Other universities had similar experiences, as reported in the Sept. 28
**After Sept. 11 Special Report of the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Sept. 12 and
Sept. 13 Oracle reported, there were vigils on September 11 and 12.
On Sept. 12, the Oracle reported that
Students give blood, support in time of attacks.
President Genshaft wrote
a letter to the Sept. 12 Oracle.
The Sept. 12 Oracle called on students to
Donate blood for U.S. victims.
USF Professor of Political Science Susan MacManus
gave an interview for the Sept. 12 Oracle.
USF Professor Michael Rank offered advice
*dealing with the stress in the Sept. 12 Tampa Tribune.
On Wednesday, Sept. 12, there were a number of events, including a
candlelight vigil on USF, as reported in the Sept. 13 St. Petersburg
Faculty and staff at Florida universities dealing with the shock found that
*Lessons At Universities Stretch Across Disciplines as reported in the
Sept. 13 Tampa Tribune.
Provost David Stamps wrote
a letter to the Sept. 13 Oracle saying that:
More than ever, we need to set an example of calm and reasoned response,
assisting our students to maintain a climate that values open dialogue
and rational discussion. This is not the time to lash out in anger or
to foster hatred for our neighbors. Indeed, others will be looking to
us for explanation and understanding, and we must not let them down.
President Genshaft wrote a column for the Sept. 16 Tampa Tribune on how
*Universities Play Key Role In Peace.
In anger and tears, on Sept. 19, Oracle columnist Ann Norsworthy writes that
Humor at a temporary standstill .
On Sept. 20, USF Bayboro (St. Petersburg) had a teach-in on the attacks,
with a panel of five experts, including Professor Al-Arian's wife Nahla.
In the Sept. 22 St. Petersburg Times, Ms. Al-Arian condemns the attacks,
"I felt ashamed of what so-called Muslims did".
The Sept. 27 Oracle described robots sent by USF to the World Trade Center
Professor, students help in New York rescue efforts.
On Sept. 28, Oracle Guest Columnist Chris Ricketts advised students to
Fly flags to unite, not divide.
On Oct. 1, the Oracle reported that USF is a
Star-Spangled campus, adding that, ``Patriotism abounds at USF since
the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.''
On Oct. 24, students
rallied for peace (as reported in the Oct. 25 Oracle; on Oct. 11,
the Oracle reported how the originally planned rally
had been cancelled), while a USF
student set up a tribute (formerly at http://www.0911tribute.com/)
as described in the Oct. 24 Oracle.
The Oct. 24 Oracle reported that
Center for Biological Defense receives grant,
giving an indication of the role that USF might play in coming years.
The Great Fear
During World War I, it had been the Germans.
During World War II, the Japanese.
During the terrible days that followed the attacks, Muslim Americans and
Muslim residents and visitors found themselves bracing for the suspicions of
These fears were substantiated in various events around the Tampa Bay Area
and the country.
On Sept. 11, the Associated Press reported that
*Florida's Islamic centers heighten security, worry of backlash.
On Sept. 12, the
*Despite backlash concerns Muslims wait line to donate blood, but
Florida's Islamic schools close doors, worry of backlash.
On Sept. 12, the Oracle described Muslim faculty and students saying
`We shouldn't be attacked'.
On Sept. 12, in the Tampa Tribune, USF Professor and teacher at the Islamic
Academy of Florida Sami Al-Arian
*condemned the crime and worried about a backlash.
On Sept. 17, the Oracle editorialized that people should
Treat Muslims with respect.
On Sept. 19, The Tampa Tribune reported that
*Bay area Muslims lament toll of terrorism
// Leaders call for for justice, not war.
On Sept. 24, the Oracle editorialized,
Welcome foreign students.
The Sept. 24 - Oct. 7 Faculty Forum ran an open letter from faculty of the
Religious studies department urging the community to ``remember the ideals
of tolerance, acceptance.''
This is Florida after all, and Bubba the Love Sponge is one of Florida's more
colorful ... characters.
He has high ratings (see the
audience analysis in the July 27 St. Petersburg Times)
and is known for antics, like broadcasting the slaughter of a boar live
on the air, for which he was prosecuted.
He was, of course,
but not before using as a defense:
his right of free speech.
And on Sept. 14, he exercised his freedom of speech by claiming that Muslims
at USF were celebrating the attacks (he is one of the three DJ's of the Sept.
14 St. Petersburg Times story above); the claim was mentioned in the
Sept. 21 Tampa Tribune, along with another story of immigrant-baiting.
(BTW, this alleged celebration was in fact the Sept. 11 vigil.)
Later on, censorious commentators would describe Bubba's disinformation ---
President Genshaft called them `false,' `reckless,' and `irresponsible' ---
as the first omen, if not the first blow.
On Sept. 14, Bubba the Love Sponge Clem falsely claimed that a Syrian-born
pediatrician had said, ``The U.S. got what they deserved.''
As reported in the
*Sept. 15 Tampa Tribune, the doctor was deluged by `hundreds' of calls.
Clem was unavailable for comment.
On Sept. 14, in the St. Petersburg Times, a list of ... incidents ...
Muslims feel local backlash;
note the three radio DJs who claimed that Muslim students
were dancing on campus in celebration of the attacks.
On Oct. 4, St. Petersburg Times columnist reports on
an Afghan family being stalked.
The Oct. 30 St. Petersburg Times reported that Afghan hounds are
HOUNDED by a name.
On Sept. 26, Sami Al-Arian appeared on the Bill O'Reilly's talk show, the
FOX News O'Reilly Factor.
(This may be the most highly rated cable talk show in America, but some of
its interviews are strangely unmentioned by its search engine.)
Al-Arian apparently expected something a bit warmer and fuzzier --- perhaps a
discussion of how appalled Muslims were by the attacks --- but Mr. O'Reilly
was hot and sharp when he asked,
What is going on at the University of South Florida?
O'Reilly said that USF ``... may be a hotbed of support for Arab militants,''
and ``... if I was the CIA, I'd follow you wherever you went.''
The interview consisted largely of O'Reilly hurling a hardball at Al-Arian,
who would try to respond, and occasionally complete a sentence before Mr.
O'Reilly would hurl another hardball.
After it was over, USF was labelled as a ``hotbed of terrorism,'' and was
quickly bombarded by e-mails and phone calls.
The most notorious phone call was one made to the Computer Science Department,
which was deemed threatening enough to require that the C.S. Department be
closed down for the day;
it would not be until the January 9 meeting of the Faculty Senate that
it would be revealed that the caller called back, an hour later, to apologize
and assure that he meant no harm.
There has been a lot of speculation about who clued O'Reilly into this
On Sept. 27, the Associated Press reported that
*University officials call emergency meeting to discuss professor.
On Sept. 28, the Associated Press reported that
*USF cites safety concerns, puts Palestinian professor on leave,
reporting the deluge of complaints and threats that arrived on campus since
the show, including one threat that led to the closure of the Computer
Science Department for that day.
The Oct. 28 Oracle echoed
A hotbed for terrorism?
Oct. 28 Oracle reported
President Genshaft said that she was ``... surprised that he was on
national television at all and that he made the statements he chose to
make''; she did not refer to which statement she was surprised by.
On Sept. 27, the St. Petersburg Times reported that
TV leads USF to look at safety , in which USF spokesman Michael Riech
said, ``What's going on at USF
is research, teaching and service. That is its contribution to this
community and country.''
On Sept. 29, the St. Petersburg Times reported that President Genshaft saw
as the major problem that Al-Arian had not made it clear in the interview
that he was speaking for himself.
``Dr. Al-Arian does not speak for the university . . . and it is incorrect
to suggest that his views represent USF in any fashion,'' quoted the
Times in their
``We have informed Dr. Al-Arian that when he expresses his views, he should
make it clear at all times that he is speaking as a private person.''
On Sept. 28, the Tampa Tribune reported that
*Fox News Program Links USF To Terrorists, and on Sept. 29 reported that
*USF Puts Professor On Leave For Safety .
On Sept. 29, the Tribune editorialized that
*USF Board Correct To Act On Controversial Professor, although the
Tribune seemed more concerned with Al-Arian's activities than the threats
that officially justified placing him on leave.
The Story Has Wings
The suspension was news, all over.
The general impression given was that USF regarded Al-Arian himself as a
On campus, there were a lot of reactions.
On Sept. 28, President Genshaft delivered a
a Report to the Trustees, in which she said that, ``Our first priority
at USF is to maintain our campuses as safe places for the work of our
students, faculty and staff.''
Perhaps with some justification, USF adminstrators were unwilling to
appear on the O'Reilly Factor.
Genshaft refused, much to O'Reilly's continuing ire, as did everyone
between her and ... USF Student Body President and Student Member of
the Board of Trustees Michael Griffin, whose Sept. 30 appearance
was described in the
Oct. 1 Oracle.
*transcript features this exchange:
Griffin: I watched it [the Al-Arian interview] on tape, and I
watched it that night on delay, and ... you need to give him [Al-Arian] a
little bit more of an opportunity to get his message out.
Griffin: Now come on.
Meanwhile, the Oct. 1 Oracle said that a
Rebuttal needed by administration,
saying, ``If anyone was to respond to numerous allegations swarming the
campus, it should have been Genshaft -- not a student.''
On Oct. 2, Oracle columnist Colin Sherwin wrote a column on how
O'Reilly only serves to antagonize.
In the Oct. 4 Oracle, in a column on how
Al-Arian must have worst luck ever,
Alex Hardman is skeptical of Al-Arian's defense.
The Oct. 5 Oracle reported that
Another round of O'Reilly: Fox News' Bill O'Reilly says USF is `ridiculous'
for allowing Professor Sami Al-Arian to stay.
The Oct. 8 Shanachie carried an Open Letter From Dr. Sami Al-Arian, in which
he translates from the Qu'ran: ``whoever kills one innocent life is
like he killed the whole of humanity, and whoever saves one life is as
though he saved the whole of humanity.''
(This appears to be from The Dinner Table, 5.35.)
On Oct. 15, in the Oracle, President Genshaft wrote in
Good ideas will triumph over bad ones: saying that, ``Ideas are the
lifeblood of universities,'' she writes that, ``For us to make our best
contribution, universities must be places with a high tolerance
for expression that does not violate the rights of others.''
As reported on Oct. 17, it was now USF/UFF President Roy Weatherford's
appear on the O'Reilly Factor.
In this Oct. 16
*interview, Weatherford said: ``My main concern is to make sure that
the people of America understand why it is that we defend people's rights,
even in this difficult time.''
O'Reilly at one point said: ``I respect you for coming on here, and I
respect academic freedom. Believe me, I make my living,
freedom of speech.''
As a reminder of what else was going on ...
The anthrax scare, which began in Florida, had a false alarm in the
Oracle newsroom, as described in the
column by editor Kevin Graham.
On Oct. 30, Oracle columnist Colin Sherwin asks
Is Al-Arian coming back?.
And there were reactions off campus, too.
A few local groups got involved.
The Tampa Bay Coalition for Peace and Justice, which Al-Arian helps run, has
not gotten around to getting a website.
On Sept. 30, St. Petersburg Times columnist Mary Jo Melone wrote that
Where hard evidence is lacking, fear fills the void.
But on Oct. 1,
*Tampa Tribune columnist Dan Ruth had some sarcastic words for Al-Arian.
On Oct. 2, Ruth appeared on the Al-Arian show
(transcript apparently not available from FOX, but here's a section from
with Hussein Ibish and Debbie Schlussel, and he
*wrote a column about the experience on Oct. 5.
*Ibish and Schlussel came back for more
on Oct. 4.)
Al-Arian's suspension was reported in the
Chronicle of Higher Education on Oct. 1.
The Oct. 5 Fox 13 News aired a story
The Oct. 2 St. Petersburg Times expressed some
skepticism about WISE.
On Oct. 7, the St. Petersburg Times reported that
Firestorm leaves professor uncowed.
On Oct. 7, the Tampa Tribune reported that
*Suspended USF professor busy explaining Islam, his beliefs.
Indeed, Al-Arian wrote a column about
*Media McCarthyism for the Oct. 7 Tampa Tribune, and a column about
free speech in the Oct. 8 Oracle.
On Oct. 11, the St. Petersburg Times reported that USF had received over
100 complaints and threats in their story
Angry e-mails block USF professor's return; see also
Anger over USF teacher continues.
On Oct. 13, the Tampa Tribune commended Genshaft for standing by the
principle of academic freedom and said in response to demands for
Al-Arian's dismissal that
*USF's Genshaft Unfairly Hit On Al-Arian Controversy.
The Oct. 16 Northern Illinois University Northern star ran an editorial
'Un-American' views should be protected, and
the Oct. 25 University of Alabama Crimson White ran a column taking a
general view of incidents across the nation in
Free speech challenged at Universities.
Darkness at noon ...
Quite rapidly, some commentators (largely Right-wing) started attacking
their favorite suspects.
Anyone who dissented in any way could get in serious trouble, as observed
in Howard Troxler's Oct. 1 St. Petersburg Times column
These days, a narrow line defines how we criticize.
Academia was especially hard hit.
``... pressure ...''
One must be aware of the pressures that the Board of Trustees and the
Administration of the University of South Florida face.
USF, which the Legislature has long treated as a distant third after
UF and FSU, is again rethinking its mission, as reported in the
*Nov. 7 Tampa Tribune.
But more to the point:
And there are other forms of pressure.
The State of Florida is facing a number of severe cutbacks, partially as
a result of the economic downturn, partly because of tax cuts recently
enacted by the Legislature.
This is not the time for USF to upset the Legislature.
There is a perception, justified or otherwise, that if USF does something
that the Legislature doesn't like, then the Legislature will retaliate
The Sept. 24 Oracle said that
USFs Board of Trustees talked Friday about what
to do if the university receives less money next year.
On Oct. 9, the St. Petersburg Times said that
Universities poised to pare budgets.
On Oct. 13, the St. Petersburg Times said that
Preparing for cuts, USF plans to lobby, while the
Oct. 13 Tampa Tribune said that
*USF Trustees To Seek State Money Despite Looming Budget Shortfall.
With budget cuts coming, and yet more students coming, and more demands
on the research side as well, the university needs all the support from
donors it can get.
The successful conclusion of a campaign to raise
a quarter of a billion dollars was announced in the Oct. 25 Oracle,
of over 100,000 gifts from all 50 states and 28 foreign countries.
This also means that USF is not only sensitive to the concerns of donors,
USF may also be vulnerable to pressure from that direction as well.
On Nov. 1, the Tampa Tribune said that
*USF To Guard Strengths As Budget Is Cut.
As an example of how things are going, on Dec. 7 Tampa Tribune reported
*Budget cuts forces university to stages classes at mall theater,
while the Dec. 11 St. Petersburg Times remarked that
At USF lectures, only happy endings.
The Dec. 7 Oracle reported that
New goals to help guide USF budget after cuts.
The recent reorganization of the State University System, replacing the
Board of Regents (over ten universities) with eleven Boards of Trustees
(all appointed by Jeb! Bush) replaced a central experienced bureaucracy
with eleven inexperienced boards, mostly with corporate (Republican
And the Boards wanted their power, while the new Department of Education
was having difficulty getting organized amidst turf wars.
During this Fall:
Notice how many of these disputes about principles involved money.
State Senator Ginny Braithwaite was concerned about security at the
proposed Center for Biological Defense as reported in a Oct. 4
St. Petersburg Times Story on
legislators' concerns about terrorism.
See also the Oct. 6 WFLX-TV Ten O'Clock News
*story on `New demands for tougher security at Univ of S Fla bioterrorism
Assemblyman David J. Mealor introduced a bill to ... modify ... tenure,
as reported in the Nov. 14 Gainesville Sun story
Tenure bill gets faculty's attention.
Co-sponsor Dennis Baxley cited Al-Arian as a reason for the bill, which
failed to get the necessary 2/3-vote to be considered during the special
UFF requested a consultation with President Genshaft.
The contract provides for periodic consultations between UFF and the
Administration to discuss outstanding issues, but if something important
comes up, UFF and the Administration can agree to have a special
The consultation was on Oct. 11.
Representing the Administration was President Genshaft, Dean of Engineering
Louis Martin-Vega, Assistant Provost Phil Smith, and an individual
identified in the web-master's notes as ``?''
Representing UFF was USF Chapter President Roy Weatherford, Vice President
and Grievance Chair Mark Klisch, Statewide Contract Enforcement Chair
Singh, USF Bargaining Chair Rob Welker, Secretary Maggie Doherty,
USF/UFF Senator Greg McColm, USF/UFF Senator Art Shapiro, and activist
Genshaft began with a description of the disruption caused by the
threatening phone call to the C.S. Department, and Martin-Vega included
a description of how the press conference on Professor Murphy's robots
(sent to WTC) were disrupted.
Weatherford presented his concern that the suspension was a punishment of
a victim --- and that the faculty would view it as such.
He asked if the Administration had considered having Al-Arian continue
teaching his class over the web (distance education), and Martin-Vega
said the subject never came up.
Genshaft said that this was purely a security issue, and that she knew that
she made the right decision.
As for ending the suspension, she said that this was not the time for
Al-Arian to return.
But after Weatherford said that letters sent to Al-Arianby the Administration
the Administration didn't want him to come back at all, there was this
Klisch: Do you want him to come back?
Genshaft:We want him to come back.
Grace ... and otherwise ... under pressure
And USF started to deal with the pressure:
About this time, we have two views of the fundamental principles involved.
Then there was another blow.
NBC Dateline ran a segment on the Al-Arian issue on Oct. 28.
They spent an hour taping comments from USF/UFF President Roy Weatherford,
but everything he said wound up on the cutting room floor.
Al-Arian refused to be interviewed.
The result was a great deal of Steven Emerson and some old videos of
a younger Al-Arian talking like an adolescent out of the 60s.
There is a
*transcript on Lexis.
(And of course, clips were aired on NBC Nightly News.)
This launched another flurry of sounds and furies.
Other faculty groups met with Genshaft, as reported in the Oct. 10
express their concern about academic freedom and also about due
In response, President Genshaft told the Oracle (for Oct. 12) that
``We're trying to do everything we can to ensure safety.''
Responding to pressure to discipline or dismiss Al-Arian, President Genshaft
wrote a column for the Oct. 14 Tampa Tribune on how
*Controversy Demands That University Balance Freedom And Security.
Her column concludes with these lines:
... the truly great universities are the ones that have the character
to remain focused on their core values during political turbulence and
social upheaval. And they know that enduring freedom is built on the rule
of law, on due process and on the belief that if people are free to speak,
free to think and free to challenge, good ideas will triumph over the
The matter came before the Faculty Senate.
In the minutes of the
Oct. 17 meeting of the Faculty Senate, Report # 3 on the ``Current
University Crises,'' the Senate passed the following motion:
We condemn the death threats against Dr.
Al-Arian, President Genshaft, and other members
of the University of South Florida community.
We support placing Dr. Al-Arian on leave for his
safety and for the safety of the campuses.
We are fully in support of President Genshaft's
concern for safety and the convening of the Task
Force on Campus Safety and Security.
We recommend that the activities of the
university community return to normal as soon as
We reaffirm that the responsible exercise of
academic freedom is a vitally important right of
faculty and must continue to be respected and
The Oct. 22 - Nov. 5 Faculty Forum announced that `Senate supports
Genshaft's decision in Al-Arian case.'
The Oct. 18 Oracle reported that
Faculty Senate drafts support for Genshaft.
On Nov. 9, USF Faculty Senator
Steven Johnston resigned from the Senate in a letter which he
has kindly permitted us to post.
The Dec. 3 Shanachie published this letter.
A Statement on Academic Freedom
The union decided to go beyond quiet expressions of concern to louder
expressions of serious concern.
A Statement on Academic
Freedom was composed by members of the USF/UFF Executive Committee and
concerned faculty, and was published as an advertisement on p. 6 of the
Nov. 1, 2001 Oracle.
He Said, She Said
This is why critical instructions are usually made in writing.
Provost David Stamps says he told Al-Arian on Sept. 28 (when Al-Arian was
put on leave) that Al-Arian was not permitted to come on campus.
Al-Arian says that he cannot recall the oral instruction.
Anyway, he visited campus on Oct. 5.
On Oct. 8, Stamps sent a written instruction.
Left unsaid was that this sort of instruction is usually given to a faculty
member who is believed to be disruptive or violent; it is rarely given to
a faculty member who is believed to be the target of disruptive or violent
... as the St. Petersburg Times reported on Nov. 25, without explanation and
again without any description of what it suspects or knows, the INS
re-arrests Al-Arian's brother-in-law.
This is also described in the Nov. 26 Oracle article on how Mazen Al-Najjar has
Nowhere to go.
And on Dec. 1, the Tampa Tribune announces that in 1995, the FBI found a
suspicious document outlining
`subversive action' in Al-Arian's home.
After six years, leak or plant?
A bit about freedom of speech ...
In east central campus, just north of Cooper Hall (where the Dean of Arts
and Sciences live), the
Terrell Sessums Mall holds flea markets every Wednesday.
Five days a week, students buy fast food at Cooper Hall and sit on the
lawn in front to people-watch the Mall.
And some of the people they watch are very watchable indeed.
There are occasional demonstrations and frequent visitors, especially of
preachers who come and harangue the students.
Readers who recall John the Baptist calling his audience vipers
and scorpions will not be surprised that some preachers use
comparable language, at lunch time, in front of Cooper Hall.
And of course, some proponents of good digestion want to ban them.
On Dec. 3, the Oracle wrote in an editorial about one particular family
of preachers, that
Preachers have freedom of speech:
``If they were unable to express their beliefs, then everyone would
eventually be silenced.''
Thus arriveth Christmas Break.
In some ways, the whole Al-Arian episode seemed to be blowing over.
Of course, things were still going on.
So the story was still going, but only by active blowing on it.
With Christmas coming, it was not clear whether the story would continue,
or die down.
Perhaps it would be wise for the USF Administration to wait and see.
Al-Arian gave a speech at a forum sponsored by Amnesty International
(see the Dec. 10
*Tampa Tribune and
On Nov. 30, O'Reilly interviewed
WFLA Newsradio 970 newsman Ted Webb, in which Webb and O'Reilly
bashed Al-Arian while blaming Clinton and, more to the point, Jeb
Bush, for not doing something drastic about Al-Arian already.
(On Dec. 7, O'Reilly prefaced his interview with Chuck Nash with
a condemnation of Jeb Bush for refusing to respond to O'Reilly's
But the USF Administration does have the history of making ... controversial
... decisions during such breaks.
In the past, such a decision, once made during a break, usually became a
fait accompli, while faculty groused or impotently spun conspiracy theories.
This time, things would be a bit different ...
In the Middle of the Night ...
On Dec. 19, the St. Petersburg Times announced that
USF trustees to hear report on Al-Arian; note that Al-Arian was
not even notified, much less invited.
Note that the announcement came in late afternoon, for a meeting the
following morning, which is not exactly consistent with the 24-hour notice
recommended by the Florida Attorney General in accordance with the
Florida Sunshine Law.
Whatever was coming, something was not right.