“UT, Alumnus and Professor Disagree on Event Rescheduling”

First he was invited. Then he was uninvited. Now he is invited again . . . at least for now. Maybe.

Alex Daoud might want to check back with UT before he makes any definitive travel plans for Wednesday (April 22).

The alumnus’-turned-mayor-turned-convicted felon-turned novelist was looking forward to returning to UT last Wednesday (April 15) to talk to students about his book ‘Sins of South Beach.’

A few days before the event, which Daoud was funding himself, it was canceled, fueling a confusing series of events and e-mail conversations.

‘I’m very disappointed but am looking forward to speaking to the students,’ Daoud said Tuesday night.

As of press time early Wednesday, Daoud said he was scheduled for the Grand Salon on Wednesday, April 22, at 6 p.m.

In an e-mail sent to Daoud from film professor Tom Garrett, who helped schedule the speech, Garrett said that after a Minaret article on Daoud, the president and provost requested via UT’s Public Information office that he not do the speech.

Daoud, who has spoken at other Florida universities, forwarded the e-mail to The Tampa Tribune who reported Tuesday that UT canceled his speech.

Garrett, also a film producer, has earned a lot of attention, including media exposure, in his time at UT. He said UT had not promoted the event, ‘because of backlash’ in the wake of UT’s connection to the Blagojevich brothers, who are also public officials connected to corruption charges.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has a strict statement against canceling speakers.

The AAUP says that ‘rules that ban or punish speech based upon its content cannot be justified.’

In Garrett’s e-mail to Daoud, Garrett wrote that because he is an untenured professor, he feared ruffling feathers.

‘They [UT administrators] will support my academic freedom if I reschedule for the Fall,’ he wrote.

Sometime late Tuesday after the Tribune contacted UT’s spokesman, UT rescheduled the event. When Daoud talked to a Channel 10 reporter Tuesday afternoon, he still didn’t know the event was back on.

‘The suggestion was that Daoud’s appearance be rescheduled, not cancelled,’ said Eric C’aacute;rdenas, UT’s Director of Public Information. ‘This decision was made in consultation with and was supported by Prof. Garrett. However, it’s now my understanding that the appearance has been rescheduled for later in April.’

Daoud, who graduated in 1967 as an English major, says he has paid his debt to society.

As major, he got some credit for renewal of the decaying city of Miami Beach but also fell into a culture of corruption.

One of three blurb’s Daoud includes on his site is by Garrett: ‘Sins of South Beach’ is an extraordinary suspenseful page turner by an author who possesses an extraordinary insightful first hand understanding of the politics and the human condition. The challenge for readers will be to keep from putting it down. A really fantastic journey into a slice of legend behind an Americana jewel of a city. This is a non fiction narrative that reads like a thriller, a crime story and should be a major motion picture.’

The Web site also describes the book as highly controversial in its graphic and realistic descriptions of crime. In one excerpt, Daoud writes, ‘Despite the temporary solace my gun provided, there really was no choice but to go through with the plan as agreed. Maybe this was the source of heroism–not courage, but fear and fighting when no other options remained.’

Blagojevich Controversy

UT officials apparently were worried about the speech coming so soon after last week’s indictments of UT’s 2008 graduation speaker, the brother of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, were publicized recently.

Blagojevich who was charged with 19 corruption charges including racketeering, conspiracy, and many others attended the University of Tampa before transferring to Northwestern in 1977.

The University of Tampa fell under scrutiny after Blagojevich’s brother, Rob Blagojevich, was also indicted on two counts of wire fraud.

Blagojevich, who took over his brother’s campaign fund, spoke at the commencement speech in 2008 at the University.

Since his speech on networking at UT, the University has been featured in many publications linking UT to the alumnus.

Pros and Cons of Controversial Speakers

Several negative effects become present when controversial speakers come to talk on college campuses.

Increased security is needed when some controversial speaker comes to colleges, who may draw hostile audiences. At Nova Southeastern University the International Muslim Assocation protested the invitation of speaker Salman Rushdie the called it a ‘a blasphemy against Islam and the Prophet Mohammed.’

However, others say controversial speeches benefit colleges.

He said while he was at UT, convicted criminals came to speak to the students ‘to educate us on the facts of life outside the university.’

Daoud said he never used drugs, in part, because of hearing one such speaker.

He believes he can also bring good things to the students and teach them life lessons.

‘I can give them all of the keys, techniques and the messages of how they can succeed after graduation in the real world,’ Daoud said. ‘I hope they come. They will really enjoy the speech.’

This year, Notre Dame has chosen President Barack Obama to give this year’s commencement speech. Even though the campus believes strongly about certain issues such as pro life, Notre Dame president said, ‘we hope’hellip;for this to be the basis of an engagement with him.’

Back in 1999, death row inmate, Mumia Abu-Jamal, gave a graduation speech at Evergreen State College via audiotape. Since he was convicted of killing of a police officer, many people thought having him speak was unethical because he was a murderer. Attendees said Abu-Jamal delivered inspirational speech with advice about life, dealing with racial cruelty and freedom.

Even though many people worry about controversial speeches, they can influence students to keep an open mind.

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