BOULDER, Colo. University of Colorado President Betsy Hoffman said a professor under siege for an essay likening some Sept. 11 victims to Nazis could face dismissal if a 30-day review uncovered misconduct but he wouldn’t be fired for his comments.
“If we find it is just about speech, there will be no action,” Hoffman told the school’s faculty assembly March 3. She said she feared a “new McCarthyism” in the uproar over Churchill’s comments.
“We are in dangerous times again,” she told the assembly of professors, who previously had voiced their support of academic freedom.
The chancellor’s office is reviewing Churchill’s speeches and lectures to see whether he should be dismissed for exceeding the boundaries of academic freedom. A decision is expected this week.
Hoffman did not comment on published reports last week that the university was considering buying out Churchill’s contract to end a firestorm over his essay.
In a statement issued on March 4, school spokesman Ray Gomez said Hoffman was expressing concerns about academic freedom and freedom of speech “in the increasingly polarized environment.”
Churchill’s attorney, David Lane, has said a buyout is an option that “makes a lot of sense.”
In a campus speech on March 3, Churchill told about 200 students the controversy was “about an agenda to roll back the parameters of political discourse in the academic arena to a preapproved box.”
Gov. Bill Owens called on the university to fire the tenured professor, and some lawmakers have suggested reducing the school’s funding.
Churchill’s essay, written the day of the terrorist attacks, attracted little attention until January when he was invited to speak at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. The college, as well as a handful of other schools, later canceled Churchill’s appearance after his essay came to light, citing security concerns.
Churchill says he wrote his controversial essay after television networks characterized the attacks as senseless. He contends they were the logical result of repressive U.S. policies.
Meanwhile, Hoffman announced today that she was resigning amid a football-recruiting scandal and the controversy over Churchill.
Hoffman, who has served as president for five years, told the Board of Regents in a letter that her resignation is effective June 30 or whenever the board names a successor.