Churchill gets support at forum

Crowd: Legislature should 'stay out of it'

by Brittany Anas
Boulder Daily Camera
February 18, 2005

Professor Ward Churchill should not be ousted from the University of Colorado, and the controversy he has stirred has challenged his students intellectually, many people told a pair of legislators at a forum Thursday.

Sen. Ron Tupa, D-Boulder, and Rep. Tom Plant, D-Nederland, held an on-campus meeting to hear from students, faculty and others on the controversy surrounding Churchill, a tenured ethnic studies professor. CU Regent Cindy Carlisle also attended the meeting.

A proposed state Senate resolution sponsored by Republican lawmakers asks the Board of Regents to fire Churchill because, they said, an essay he penned on the day of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks is a "blow against America's healing process."

Churchill has been under scrutiny since his essay about the World Trade Center attacks ignited protests in New York last month. The essay said the attacks were inevitable because of U.S. foreign policies driven in part by victims of the attack, whom he likened to Nazi Gestapo officer Adolf Eichmann.

An overwhelming majority of the crowd at Thursday night's forum told the legislators that they don't have the authority to tell professors what they canteach.

"I certainly don't want my job in jeopardy every time I disagree with Governor (Bill) Owens," said Vikki Otero, a CU staff member.

She called the proposed resolution a dangerous precedent, saying it would allow legislators to begin booting professors from their jobs if the politicians disagreed with what the faculty members were teaching.

"The Legislature is remiss in telling me what I can say and what I can't say," said Marty Walter, a CU mathematics professor.

After about 40 people talked, Sen. Tupa said he planned to vote against the resolution.

"I'm hearing loud and clear that you want the Legislature to butt out," Tupa said.

More than 125 people attended the meeting in a lecture hall in the Duane Physics Building. At the end of the nearly two-hour forum, only three people voiced support for the resolution.

Beth Ott, a senior at Metropolitan State College of Denver, told legislators to "stay out of it."

"It is vital to an educated nation to hear all sides," she said.

CU senior Matt Wilson, one of the three present supporting the resolution to terminate Churchill, said he questions the need for an ethnic studies department at the university. He was booed, and one member of the audience told him to join the Ku Klux Klan.

Michael Drost, a CU freshman, said it is not free-speech issues that he is asking for Churchill to be fired for but, instead, "academic fraud."

Drost said some of what the professor teaches does not have a factual basis. He pointed to one of Churchill's writings that said the U.S. army delivered smallpox-infested blankets to Indians.

Drost argued that students can be expelled for plagiarism and academic fraud, and professors should be terminated for the same violations.

Several CU students and student-government leaders described Churchill's classes as thought-provoking, and his colleagues called him compassionate.


Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at (303) 473-1132 or anasb@dailycamera.com .


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