Palestinian supporters seek his release

Jan. 14, 2002 at 5:32 PM

TAMPA, Fla., Jan. 14 (UPI) -- A University of South Florida professor said Monday he intends to fight school administration attempts to fire him for his alleged ties to Palestinian terrorists.

Sami al Arian asked University President Judith Genshaft to reconsider her intent to dismiss him. She said she would study his response but did not back down on her stand.

Al-Arian, a Palestinian-born computer science professor, has taught at South Florida for 16 years.

"This is a unique case of how one person's activities outside the scope of his employment have resulted in harm to the legitimate interests of the university," she said.

"Our primary concern is the safety of the learning environment for students, faculty and staff," she said. "A safe campus is essential for academic freedom, learning and teaching to flourish."

Florida's college faculty union said it supports Al Arian and will lead the fight for his position if he asks for the support.

"What people need to understand about the culture of academic life is that the intellectual freedom in this environment is more important than whether you like any individuals who exercise that freedom," said Tom Auxter, president of the state faculty union.

Al Arian in the past has made anti-Israeli comments and has had documented associations with people linked to terrorism. The union said he has never been charged with a crime and the reasons for firing him were "trumped up" so he could be dismissed.

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