N.Y. college cancels talk
From the www.monabaker.com archive (legacy material)
Howard Pankratz | Denver Post | 2 February 2005
Ward Churchill, who quit as department chair over his 9/11 comments, insists he won’t resign as teacher.
Hamilton College in New York has canceled the panel discussion featuring controversial University of Colorado ethnic- studies professor Ward Churchill, citing dozens of threats to the college and members of the panel.
But 9/11 victims’ relatives, who decry Churchill’s description of World Trade Center victims as “little Eichmanns,” say their protests were what forced the school to reconsider.
Vige Barrie, director of media relations for the school in Clinton, N.Y., said that “more than a hundred” threats had been received and forwarded to local police.
The threats came as a result of the controversy that erupted over an essay Churchill penned the day after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, comparing workers in the World Trade Center to Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi whom Churchill describes as “a technocrat who made sure the trains ran on time.”
Churchill resigned Monday as chair of CU’s ethnic-studies department but will remain as a teaching professor with a salary of $94,242.
On Tuesday, Gov. Bill Owens suggested that Churchill resign his teaching post as well.
“Ideas have consequences, and words have meaning,” Owens said in a written statement. “Mr. Churchill’s views are not simply anti-American. They are at odds with simple decency. … His resignation as chairman of the ethnic-studies department was a good first step.”
Churchill made it clear Tuesday that resigning as chair was as far as he intended to go.
“I didn’t want the job (as chair of the department) anyway, so it’s worked out really well,” he said, freeing him to concentrate on what he loves: teaching and writing. As for the call of Owens, or anyone else who would urge him to resign, Churchill said emphatically: “I’m not going anywhere.”
“I was doing my job,” he said, because the essay is sparking discourse and debate.
He is being misquoted, he said, and does not advocate the violence of 9/11. His essay points out that because the U.S. has a policy, he said, of dominating other countries, the attacks were inevitable.
Meanwhile, he said, he will continue to do what he lives for.
“Seeing light bulbs go on and seeing people as a result of what I do connect the dots, I suppose it’s akin to the birthing process,” he said. “I’m almost 60; I’m not going to be hurtling myself over any barricades.”
Tuesday afternoon, a throng of students and reporters accompanied Churchill between classes on the CU-Boulder campus. For every student who insulted Churchill as he passed, more praised him.
“Professor Churchill is a fantastic writer, and I wanted to be in an atmosphere where normal thought is challenged,” said Shaina Mille, 20, who says she transferred to CU from New Orleans’ Tulane University because of him.
Other students criticized him.
“I totally support his First Amendment rights,” said Allison Sands, 18, who said she found his comments “offensive and blasphemous” and that they should not be supported by CU.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Hamilton College president Joan Stewart said the school had done its best “to protect what we hold most dear, the right to speak, think and study freely. But there is a higher responsibility that this institution carries, and that is the safety and security of our students, faculty, staff and the community in which we live.”
Dan English, chief of police in Kirkland, N.Y., said Hamilton has been compiling e-mails and phone calls. The department’s director of campus safety will be forwarding them to English’s department, the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department or the New York State Police.
English said he hasn’t seen the e-mails or heard the calls, so he couldn’t comment on their nature.
Lt. Tim McGraw of the CU Police Department said CU detectives are aware of death threats against Churchill and have taken precautions to protect Churchill and those around him, including his students.
Some of the 9/11 families believe the real reason the school canceled the event was because of the pressure relatives brought on the school.
One critic of Hamilton College is Richard Pecorella, whose fiancée, Karen Juday, was an administrative assistant at Cantor Fitzgerald, which lost 658 employees in the attack.
“I believe that the cancellation of Mr. Churchill was from all the pressure put on your institution by the families of 9/11, and it was the moral thing to do,” Pecorella wrote Stewart on Tuesday. “You want to save face by implying the death threats stopped this.”