Sami Al-Arian: Victim of Intolerance or Threat to a University’s Stability?

February 6, 2002


Since September 11, there have been numerous incidents in which faculty members have been criticized for their comments about terrorism, U.S. foreign policy, and the Middle East. But only one tenured professor -- Sami Al-Arian of the University of South Florida -- faces the prospect of losing his job for his public comments. Mr. Al-Arian has been the source of controversy at the university for several years, with his critics saying that his comments about Israel promote hate and his defenders saying that he is a caring professor whose comments -- however controversial -- must be defended as part of free speech and academic freedom. After some statements that Mr. Al-Arian made in 1991 were discussed, post-September 11, on a national television show, the university was bombarded with criticism, threats to revoke donations, and some death threats for Mr. Al-Arian. The university's Board of Trustees has authorized his dismissal -- and the university's president, while not making a final decision, has said his dismissal would be appropriate -- because of the disruptions Mr. Al-Arian's statements have caused at the university. Many faculty groups say that the move against Mr. Al-Arian is a serious violation of free speech and academic freedom...

Schools: University of South Florida Cases: University of South Florida: The ‘Heckler’s Veto’