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Panel discussion canceled amid furor over 9/11 remarks

By The Associated Press
02.01.05

CLINTON, N.Y. — Citing death threats, an upstate New York college today canceled a panel discussion featuring a University of Colorado professor who compared the World Trade Center victims to Nazis.

Hamilton College spokesman Michael DeBraggio said multiple death threats were made against both college officials and guest speaker Ward Churchill, who resigned yesterday as chairman of Colorado's ethnic studies department.

The university said Churchill would retain his teaching job.

In an essay written in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Churchill said the World Trade Center victims were "little Eichmanns," a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who organized Nazi plans to exterminate Europe's Jews.

Churchill also said the victims deserved to die and he spoke of the "gallant sacrifices" of the "combat teams" that struck America.

The essay attracted little attention until Churchill was invited to speak at Hamilton College, about 40 miles east of Syracuse, N.Y. He had been scheduled to speak on a panel there on Feb. 3 titled "Limits of Dissent."

In resigning as chairman of the ethnic-studies department, Churchill told university officials in a letter that "the present political climate has rendered me a liability in terms of representing either my department, the college, or the university."

University officials welcomed the move.

"While Professor Churchill has the constitutional right to express his political views, his essay on 9/11 has outraged and appalled us and the general public," interim CU-Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano said in a statement.

Churchill did not respond to a telephone message.

In an interview with Denver station KCNC-TV, Churchill said he was not an advocate of violence.

"The overriding question that was being posed at the time was, 'Why did this happen, why did they hate us so much?' and my premise was when you do this to other people's families and children, that is going to be a natural response."

"This" apparently referred to Churchill's view that those working in the towers were a willing part of a "mighty engine of profit" that harms people overseas.

An emergency Board of Regents meeting regarding Churchill, who is a tenured professor, was scheduled for Feb. 3.

"He still has a platform, but a platform that the regents want to take a look at," Regent Tom Lucero told the station.

Hamilton College President Joan Hinde had sent an e-mail to faculty on Jan. 30, repeating the position that "however repugnant one might find Mr. Churchill's remarks," the college was committed to his right of free speech and would not rescind its invitation.

Hundreds of relatives of Sept. 11 victims had protested Churchill's upcoming appearance. William Doyle of 9/11 Families for a Secure America said people in the New York City region were considering chartering a bus to the event.

Speaking last night in Albany, N.Y., Republican Gov. George Pataki said Hamilton College had made a mistake in inviting Churchill.

"I am appalled first that this person with such a warped sense of right and wrong and of humanity teaches at a higher education institution anywhere in America," Pataki said. "But I am equally, or perhaps even more, appalled that Hamilton College in this state has invited that person to participate in a forum. It is wrong. There is a difference between freedom of speech and inviting a bigoted terrorist supporter."


Update
University of Colorado explores dismissing outspoken professor
Interim chancellor launches 30-day review of Ward Churchill's speeches, writings to determine if his comments about 9/11 victims overstepped boundaries of academic freedom. 02.04.05

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