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Some say scandal hurts trust in USF

By ANTONYA ENGLISH

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 22, 2001


TAMPA -- The University of South Florida has lost credibility among students on campus after months of allegations about racial bias and a coverup in the women's basketball program.

That was the prevailing feeling among students who joined two faculty members Wednesday afternoon at the Marshall Center for a roundtable discussion about how the scandal has affected students.

"I don't have any trust at all in the university," said Rashida Strober, a 23-year-old junior history major. "Speaking from an African-American perspective, it's not just occuring in one department, it's all across the board, and it's not being addressed. If what went on did not go on, why did they try to cover it up? White students are talking about what they think. I'm talking about what I know."

Junior mass communications major Ben Forlaw likened the situation to a student having problems with a grade and seeking help from an appeals process.

"It's an issue of trust," Forlaw, 21, said. "You go to them and then trust them to help you get the situation resolved. We trusted the university to handle this (basketball issue), to look at the facts and take the right steps. When they fail us, you do lose trust. When discrimination rears its ugly head, you want to believe they are going to do the right thing."

Longtime faculty member Bob Beasley said he has not lost trust in the university and believes former coach Jerry Ann Winters and athletic director Paul Griffin should still have their jobs.

"I think there have been false allegations brought and in the media," said Beasley, a professor in the school of Physical Education, Wellness and Sports Studies. "There are undertones that the university is racist. I don't think it is. I have been here longer than dirt, and I have never seen any racist acts."

Billed as the first formal discussion on how the allegations have affected people who work at and attend USF, the hourlong forum was organized by Lucas Grindley and Rosie Howard, candidates for student body president and vice president.

Among the participants was Dione Smith, the player who filed the first of eight federal discrimination lawsuits against the university, Winters and Griffin, alleging black players were treated differently from whites.

Most of the students said their knowledge of the events was limited to news accounts but they did not think the university handled the situation properly.

"I think that the way it was handled not only affects my trust in the athletic program, but other people," said Brian Timmons, a freshman from Largo. "I think it will affect the way the general public, not just the USF community, looks at the school now. I was talking to somebody last night who graduated from USF, and they feel the same way."

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