Professor Quits Post after 9/11 Remark

From the archive (legacy material)

Michelle York | New York Times | 1 February 2005

A University of Colorado at Boulder professor who became the target of widespread outrage after he called the Sept. 11 victims “little Eichmanns” has resigned as chairman of that school’s ethnic studies department, though he will continue to teach there.
The professor, Ward Churchill, is still invited to take part in a discussion Thursday at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., despite widespread protest that has been building since news of his visit became public. “We have a real test of freedom of expression here,” said Hamilton’s president, Joan Hinde Stewart, who has maintained that she finds the comparison “personally repugnant.”
At the University of Colorado at Boulder, Interim Chancellor Philip DiStefano said in an interview that he had accepted Mr. Churchill’s resignation as department chairman because he thought it was in “the best interest of the university.” But, he added: “I have to respect freedom of expression. Universities are places where good and bad ideas clash.”
In an essay published after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Churchill wrote that those killed in the trade center were ignoring their role in American foreign policy. “They were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cellphones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants,” he wrote, referring to American sanctions on Iraq.
“If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I’d really be interested in hearing about it,” he added.
Hamilton College invited Mr. Churchill to campus last summer to talk about his area of expertise, social activism on American Indian rights. Officials learned of his controversial comments later and declined to cancel the visit.
Yesterday, Mr. Churchill said by phone he had received many death threats and plans to spend today having an updated will notarized. “This proves my thesis absolutely,” he said of the death threats. “That is terrorism. The families of Sept. 11 feel dehumanized and devalued and that leads to violence. It’s not different for the Arabs.”
Hamilton College’s switchboard and e-mail system were jammed yesterday with thousands of comments – mainly protests, though some were in favor of the college’s stance. Some protests came from a form letter that Internet users could access from Bill O’Reilly’s official Web site.
A group of Sept. 11 families are considering holding a demonstration or vigil outside the discussion.
Gov. George E. Pataki also sent a letter of protest to the college president. At a dinner banquet of New York State Conservative Party members, Governor Pataki said, “There’s a difference between freedom of speech and inviting a bigoted terrorist supporter.”
Hamilton, a liberal arts college west of Utica, is in the middle of a $175 million capital campaign.