[Alis] students stand up for integrity
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kmccook at tampabay.rr.com
Sun Feb 22 12:19:37 EST 2009
Two USF students in bike case stand up for integrity.
Students in bike case stand up for integrity
By Rebecca Catalanello and Alexandra Zayas, Times Staff
Published Saturday, February 21, 2009
TAMPA - Before the police statements were given and the
university administrator resigned, before Inside Edition called,
there was just this:
A surveillance video rolling in a room, as Tim Boyd and Christine
The $100 bike he loaned her had been stolen from outside the
University of South Florida building where they worked. A facilities
manager had found the culprit.
As the two men on the screen wheeled the cheap mountain bike
away, the worker asked: "Do you know who that is?"
Stunned, Dillingham answered: "I think I do. But I don't want to
It was Dr. Abdul Rao, the senior associate vice president for
research at USF who made $384,280 a year.
He was powerful enough to control the program's grant money.
To fire people.
If they spoke out, could he crush their careers?
o o o
Tim Boyd, 39, is a biological scientist who first enrolled at USF as
an undergraduate in 1995. He's now a doctoral student
conducting research on a drug he believes could slow or even
reverse Alzheimer's disease.
After hours and hours of examining mouse brains, his studies are
on the verge of publication.
Christine Dillingham, 22, is a senior with a double major, in
biomedical sciences and psychology. She's about to start
applying to medical schools and hopes to focus on neurosurgery.
They've been friends since she started working in the lab next to
his, two years ago, at the Johnnie B. Byrd Sr. Alzheimer's Center
& Research Institute.
Boyd remembers the time she showed up to a work function
covered in bandages. She had been hit by a car while riding her
He liked her work ethic. So when her bike broke down three
weeks ago, he dusted off the one in his garage and loaned it to
o o o
Rao knew they knew.
He summoned Boyd to a meeting in his office and closed the
"Have a seat," the administrator said.
Rao explained that he thought Boyd's bike was abandoned, that
he found it unlocked.
Boyd recalled Dillingham telling him she had locked the bike.
Rao said he was just trying to help a "semi-homeless" Miami man
who does odd jobs for him. What he didn't say was that the man
had a lengthy criminal record and sometimes stayed at his house.
"Tell the police it was a misunderstanding," Boyd recalls Rao
Was Rao really using charity as an excuse for theft? Boyd asked
That made him livid.
Every Sunday night, Boyd waits tables at the Melting Pot and
donates all his earnings to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
in Memphis, in memory of a young relative who died of cancer.
Every Thursday and Friday, Dillingham volunteers at the H. Lee
Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, working with
patients' families, in memory of a woman she calls her "adoptive
mother" who died of ovarian cancer when she was in high school.
She plans to spend her last spring break as an undergraduate
serving cancer patients in Haiti.
This wasn't charity, Boyd thought as Rao spoke. And the bike
o o o
Sitting across from Boyd, Rao didn't know about the detour the
graduate student had taken just five minutes before.
Instinct had told Boyd to protect the video. He met the facilities
manager in the elevator.
"We've got to do this right now," Boyd said. "It's imperative."
They got off the elevator and entered the room. Boyd pulled a
thumb drive from his key chain and copied the video. Then, he
ran upstairs to the lab and stuck the drive in a friend's computer.
He copied the video again.
"Put this on a jump drive and get it out of here," he told the friend.
That video would spread onto YouTube.
No, Boyd told the powerful administrator, he wouldn't "tell the
police it was a misunderstanding."
And he had no problem adding:
"The whole lab knows."
o o o
Rao maintains he isn't a thief. He returned the bike.
He denied allegations that he tried to coerce Boyd to lie to the
police. He also attempted to withdraw his resignation on Friday,
saying he felt rushed. USF says he is no longer an employee.
Boyd continues to field calls from professors, offering thanks.
"I was only interested in the bike, and now everyone wants to tell
me their story," he said.
Dillingham gets high fives in the hallways for calling the police to
file a report.
"I would rather keep my integrity intact instead of keeping silent to
secure my future."
They think their careers will be just fine.
And they plan to auction the bike on eBay, to raise funds for St.
Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or
rcatalanello at sptimes.com.
. Time line
Missing bike leads to resignation
Feb. 9: Christine Dillingham parks the bike Tim Boyd lent her at
the Johnnie B. Byrd Sr. Alzheimer's Center & Research Institute.
Feb. 10: Dillingham notices the bike is gone. She says the lock is
left behind, wrapped around the railing and locked. She and Boyd
file a police report.
Feb. 11: A security worker shows a video to Dillingham and Boyd.
It shows Dr. Abdul Rao and another man taking the bike. Boyd
copies the video. Rao meets with Boyd, who decides to press
Tuesday: Rao announces he will resign.
Wednesday: Rao agrees to a settlement with USF that entitles
him to $50,000 in exchange for his resignation effective this past
Friday: Rao tries to rescind his resignation, saying he felt rushed,
but USF says he is no longer an employee.
© 2009 o All Rights Reserved o St. Petersburg Times
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