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Appointment of USF women's adviser on reforms is delayed

A delay has arisen in University of South Florida (USF) president Frank Borkowski's plan to have a special women's adviser oversee his reforms in response to a campus rape scandal.

Borkowski's first choice to be his adviser turned him down. Now Borkowski has appointed a 10-member search committee whose work is expected to take another month.

"I do believe the intent has been to put people in these positions right away in an effort to show good faith," said USF spokesman Dan Casseday.

Last week, when members of the Board of Regents questioned Borkowski closely on who would oversee his promised reforms, Borkowski said he would rely heavily on his women's adviser, a new senior-level position in his office.

Marilyn Myerson, an associate dean in USF's College of Arts and Sciences and former chair of the women's studies program, was the person who turned Borkowski down, Casseday said. She also could not be reached Tuesday.

Casseday said he was not aware of any other candidates who were offered the job. Once one person refused the position, "a decision was made to go another way," he said.

Mark Lono, USF's vice president for public affairs, acknowledged the unplanned delay Tuesday, but said there should be no problem in making sure Borkowski's action plan gets prompt attention on campus.

"It won't take that long," Lono said. "In the meantime, everything in the action plan has been assigned to somebody."

Also, Borkowski already has named two other key officials called for in his plan. Barbara Sherman, an associate provost and former dean, was named interim vice president for student affairs last week. She temporarily replaces longtime vice president Dan Walbolt, who was demoted and assigned to other duties because of his role in the controversy.

An interim victim's advocate coordinator was named Monday. She is Jeanette Abin Marcus, a paralegal who had been working in USF's general counsel's office. USF was the last state university in Florida to create a victim's advocate program; the coordinator makes sure the needs and concerns of student victims in campus discipline cases are addressed.

Last week, Borkowski was called before a Board of Regents committee, which lectured him harshly on USF's mishandling of a series of sexual assault and harassment complaints involving star basketball player Marvin Taylor. It was widely acknowledged among regents and legislators that Borkowski had to promise quick reforms in order to hang onto his job.

Regent Carolyn Roberts, who chairs the committee that will keep tabs on Borkowski's reforms, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The search committee for a women's adviser will be headed by Kathleen Heide, an associate professor of criminology who has been on the board of several community agencies that serve sexual abuse and assault victims and other people in crisis, USF officials said.

The committee will have eight women and two men, including several professors, the president of Students Organized Against Rape and campus police Lt. Bob Staehle, who pioneered rape education programs at USF several years ago.

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