Colorado Regents Will Investigate Professor
Who Compared September 11 Victims to Nazis
By SCOTT SMALLWOOD
As a first step toward possibly firing him, the University of Colorado will
investigate the writings and speeches of a professor at its Boulder campus
who has compared victims of the September 11 attacks to Nazis.
Chronicle of Higher Education, Friday, February 4, 2005
Philip P. DiStefano, interim chancellor of the campus, told the university
system's Board of Regents at a special meeting on Thursday that he and two
deans would review the work of the professor, Ward Churchill. The chancellor
said he and the deans would determine whether Mr. Churchill "may have overstepped
Mr. Churchill, who teaches ethnic studies, has called those who died in the
2001 attacks "little Eichmanns." Shortly after the attacks, he wrote in
an essay that the victims were not innocent civilians but a "technocratic
corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire." (The essay,
"'Some People Push Back': On the Justice of Roosting Chickens," is available
The three-year-old remarks drew attention in the past week after families
of September 11 victims and others protested Mr. Churchill's planned appearance
at Hamilton College. He was supposed to be speaking at the Clinton, N.Y.,
college on Thursday night but the event was canceled by Hamilton's president,
Joan Hinde Stewart, because she was worried about safety (The Chronicle,
As the Colorado regents' meeting began, several dozen students stood up in
the audience. Although they were silent at first, they then began shouting
at the regents, demanding to be heard. Police officers removed at least
one student, and the regents adjourned to conduct an executive session.
When they returned, they approved a resolution endorsing the chancellor's
plan to investigate Mr. Churchill. The regents also said that the professor's
remarks had "brought dishonor" to the university and that the board wanted
to "apologize to all Americans."
This week has been a tumultuous one for Mr. Churchill.
On Monday, he stepped down as chairman of the ethnic-studies department at
Boulder, cutting his $114,000 salary by about $20,000. He also released
a statement saying that news-media reports had grossly misstated his views.
On Tuesday, Hamilton canceled his speech, saying it had received threats
of violence against college officials and Mr. Churchill. That night or early
the next morning, according to Boulder County sheriff's deputies, someone
painted two swastikas on Mr. Churchill's pickup truck as it sat outside
On Wednesday, the Colorado House of Representatives passed a resolution denouncing
Mr. Churchill, saying that his essay "strikes an evil and inflammatory blow
against America's healing process." The State Senate passed the same resolution
Mr. Churchill told The Denver Post that he would sue the university if he
was fired. "This is exactly what I'm protected from -- an attempt to take
my job on the basis of a difference of opinion on a burning issue," he told
In a statement released on Thursday, the American Association of University
Professors said any questioning of Mr. Churchill's future at Colorado should
be done by the faculty and should ensure the professor due process. Also,
the association cautioned that Mr. Churchill should not face harsher standards
because of the subject of his remarks.
"While members of the academic community are free to condemn what they believe
are repugnant views expressed by a faculty member, any charges arising from
such statements must be judged by the same standards and procedures that
would apply to statements unrelated to the terrorist attacks and the loss
of life on that fateful day," the AAUP said.
"We must resist the temptation to judge such statements more harshly because
they evoke special anguish among survivors and families of the September
11 victims. The critical test of academic freedom is its capacity to meet
even the most painful and offending statements."