Churchill Quits Chairmanship
CU Professor Will Continue Tenured Teaching Position

 by Matthew Beaudin
 
Ward Churchill resigned Monday from his post as chairman of the University of Colorado's Department of Ethnic Studies, but he plans to keep his job as a tenured professor.

"Given the furor which has arisen over the past week concerning my 2001 essay, 'Some People Push Back,' I feel it inappropriate that I continue in my position as chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies," Churchill wrote in a Monday letter to Todd Gleeson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

The essay, published just after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said Americans couldn't keep supporting global atrocities without expecting repercussions. It stirred controversy last week when students at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., protested Churchill's invitation to speak at the school.

The step down will cost Churchill about $20,000 a year. He earned $94,242 as a professor, and received a 21 percent increase for his chairmanship, CU spokeswoman Pauline Hale said.

Churchill again defended his essay Monday in a statement released on the Department of Ethnic Studies' Web site.

"I am not a 'defender' of the Sept. 11 attacks, but simply pointing out that if U.S. foreign policy results in massive death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is returned," he wrote.

"The gross distortions of what I actually said can only beviewed as an attempt to distract the public from the real issues at hand and to further stifle freedom of speech and academic debate in this country."

Churchill's resignation was not enough to appease critics who are calling for him to leave CU altogether.

The Board of Regents will hold a special meeting Thursday to address Churchill's comments and his future at the university, Regent Tom Lucero said. He said they will speak publicly about Churchill before going into an executive session with interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano.

None of the regents would say whether they thought Churchill should be fired. CU officials previously have defended his right to free speech but distanced the university from his views.

U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, R-Arvada, went further.

"This is way beyond the bounds of moral clarity, of right and wrong, of good and evil," he said Monday.

U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, said he was more concerned about Churchill apologizing than leaving the chairmanship.

"I think this is certainly a step in the right direction," Udall said. "I still hope that professor Churchill would apologize."

Others continued to defend a man they called a good professor who's been misunderstood.

"People think he advocates terrorism, but he's just explaining why people we call terrorists do what they do," said CU junior Shawn Baland, who met with other Churchill supporters on campus Monday night.

Roger Bowen, general secretary of the American Association of University Professors, defends controversial faculty members nationwide. The group fields about 1,200 calls per year, many from professors facing pressure from inside their institutions.

"Any time you silence speech, I think it affects the freedom of a university," he said.

Bowen debunked the notion that taxpayers have leverage over Churchill's speech.

"Because he is employed by a state institution, then the state has to follow the First Amendment," Bowen said.

But Isaiah Lechowit, president of CU's College Republicans, said it's not matter of personal free speech.

"When he speaks, he's not speaking as Ward Churchill," Lechowit said. "He's speaking as professor Ward Churchill."

The College Republicans plan to protest at 10 a.m. today at the fountain outside the University Memorial Center. Protesters will sign petitions to CU President Elizabeth Hoffman demanding Churchill's firing before distributing fliers to Churchill's 12:30 p.m. class.

"I think our actions helped lead to his resignation, and I hope our actions help lead to his termination," Lechowit said.

Churchill is still slated to participate in Thursday's panel at Hamilton College, titled "Limits of Dissent?"

Vige Barrie, director of public relations at Hamilton College, said she expects protesters at the panel but added: "It's an issue of free speech, and that would be censorship to cancel it at this point."

Copyright 2005, The Daily Camera
 
Published on Tuesday, February 1, 2005 by the Daily Camera / Boulder, Colorado  


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