University of South Florida: The ‘Heckler’s Veto’
Computer Science Professor Sami Al-Arian no longer faces termination for his alleged "disruption" of university activities, which FIRE protested through a letter from Alan Charles Kors to University of South Florida (USF) President Judy Genshaft. In the letter, Kors denounced USF's termination of Professor Al-Arian due to FIRE's belief that his firing was an example of a "heckler's veto," which the letter deemed to be the public outcry against Professor Al-Arian shortly after FoxNews television host Bill O'Reilly's implication that Professor Al-Arian was sympathetic to terrorists. While Professor Al-Arian is still terminated, USF changed the justification of his firing in August 2002 after alleging that Professor Al-Arian engaged in a pattern of sanctionable and criminal activity by aiding terrorists and financing their activities.
- "FIRE and Constitutional Rights at the University of South Florida," February 25, 2003: FIRE continues to make available on this website all of its prior communications about the Sami Al-Arian case. FIRE's statements on freedom of speech and academic freedom at the University of South Florida were and remain constitutionally and morally correct. In light of the recent indictment of Al-Arian on charges of terrorism, FIRE issues the following statement.
- "University of South Florida Makes a U-Turn: FIRE and the Case of Sami Al-Arian," August 30, 2002: Vindicating FIRE's position, the University of South Florida (USF) has abandoned its claim that negative reactions to Professor Sami Al-Arian's otherwise protected speech constituted appropriate grounds to fire him. USF now has set forth charges of sanctionable and criminal behavior against the tenured professor of computer science, against which he now must have the opportunity to defend himself in an appropriate and impartial forum. USF now bears a substantial burden of proving the serious charges it has lodged against its faculty member.
- "USF President's Update Regarding Dr. Sami Al-Arian," August 21, 2002
- "Policy Statement by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education on the Intended Firing of Dr. Sami Al-Arian," February 15, 2002: In response to requests to FIRE for a fuller legal analysis of USF's stated intention to terminate Dr. Al-Arian, Co-Director Harvey Silverglate and Director of Public and Legal Advocacy Greg Lukianoff provide a study of the case in the light of the Constitution and case law.
- "The University of South Florida Betrays the Rule of Law: The "Thug's Veto" and the Ongoing Case of Sami Al-Arian," January 29, 2002: The University of South Florida (USF) has decided to fire a tenured professor on the grounds that outside criticism of his views had created too much of a "disruption" to uphold his constitutional and moral rights of free speech and lawful political activity. Dr. Sami Al-Arian, an outspoken pro-Palestinian activist, was a guest on a cable news show where he was accused of having radical views, of having made radical statements in the past, and of having possible ties to terrorist groups. As a result of the television appearance, USF came under what it has described as intense public pressure. The University, in response, issued a notice of termination, choosing to dismiss Dr. Al-Arian, because it was too bothersome to defend his constitutional rights.
- "FIRE Letter to USF President Judy Genshaft," January 29, 2002
- "Defending the right to offend,"
by Beth Gillin, The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 13, 2003
- "Terror Prof Defenders: Support Justified,"
by Jacob Gershman, The New York Sun, February 25, 2003
- "Seebach: Yet Another Recruit to the Cause of Academic Freedom,"
by Linda Seebach, Rocky Mountain News, August 24, 2002
- "USF Sues for Right to Fire Professor,"
by Anita Kumar, St. Petersburg Times, August 22, 2002
- "Teacher or Terrorist?,"
by Eric Boehlert, Salon.com, August 22, 2002
- "USF President: Palestinian Prof has Terrorist Ties Should be Fired,"
by Rachel La Corte, The Associated Press State & Local Wire, August 21, 2002
- "Academia's Swindle,"
by Debra Saunders, San Francisco Chronicle, August 13, 2002
- "Amid New Probe Al-Arian Speaks,"
by Graham Brink, St. Petersburg Times, February 23, 2002
- "Al-Arian Says Federal Probe is All About Politics,"
The Associated Press State & Local Wire, February 23, 2002
- "Sami Al-Arian: Victim of Intolerance or Threat to a University's Stability?,"
by Sharon Walsh, Colloquy Live (Chronicle of Higher Education), February 6, 2002
- "Some really offensive ideas on campus,"
by Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune, February 3, 2002
- "Firing Decision Could Affect USF President's Future,"
The Associated Press, February 2, 2002
- "USF President's Choice Carries Ramifications,"
by Graham Brink, St. Petersburg Times, February 2, 2002
- "University Moves to Fire 'Disruptive' Prof,"
by Lou Marano, United Press International, January 29, 2002
- "Professor's Terrorist Links Divide University in Tampa,"
by Scott Powers, The Orlando Sentinel, January 12, 2002
- "USF Faculty Union Supports Al-Arian,"
by Babita Persaud, St. Petersburg Times, January 11, 2002
- "Florida Witch Hunt,"
by Bruce Shapiro, Salon.com, January 8, 2002
- "Critics of Al-Arian Firing See Parallels to Segregation,"
by Stephen Hegarty, St. Petersburg Times, December 22, 2001