[Paleopsych] Fearing Violence, Hamilton College Cancels Speech by Professor Who Called 9/11 Victims 'Little Eichmanns'

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Fearing Violence, Hamilton College Cancels Speech by Professor Who Called
9/11 Victims 'Little Eichmanns'
News bulletin from the Chronicle of Higher Education, 5.2.2

[NYT writeup appended.]


    Citing what it called "credible threats of violence," Hamilton College
    has canceled a speech planned for Thursday by a professor who has
    called those who died in the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center
    "little Eichmanns."

    A storm of controversy has centered on the Clinton, N.Y., college in
    recent days as many people, including families of September 11
    victims, protested the planned speech by Ward Churchill, a professor
    of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

    Shortly after the attacks, he wrote that those killed were not
    innocent civilians but a "technocratic corps at the very heart of
    America's global financial empire." He went on to compare them to
    Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi official in charge of sending millions of
    Jews to concentration camps.

    Mr. Churchill was originally invited to speak at Hamilton by the
    Kirkland Project for the Study of Gender, Society, and Culture. Nancy
    Rabinowitz, a professor of comparative literature and the project
    director, had invited him to speak on American Indian issues, but
    after other professors and relatives of September 11 victims
    complained, she says, administrators asked her to change the topic.
    The event, retitled "Limits of Dissent," became about the controversy

    As the calls to cancel the event increased, Joan Hinde Stewart,
    Hamilton's president, at first said the college would defend free
    speech by allowing it to go forward. But on Tuesday, she announced
    that holding the event, which had been expanded to a panel discussion,
    would be too dangerous.

    "We have done our best to protect what we hold most dear, the right to
    speak, think, and study freely," she said in a written statement. "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."

    Before the cancellation, the college had taken the unusual step of
    posting on its Web site hundreds of the very negative e-mail messages
    it had received about inviting Mr. Churchill to speak. Critics
    included prospective students who said they now would not attend
    Hamilton, parents disturbed by what they called "hate speech," and
    many television viewers who heard about the controversy on The
    O'Reilly Factor. One wrote: "I am sure the KKK and Nazi promoters
    would not be invited to speak at Hamilton. ... This is not a question
    of free speech. Mr. Churchill can say whatever he wants. ... It is a
    question of decency and respect. Obviously Hamilton has neither."

    Why this particular event blew up into such a firestorm remains
    unclear. Mr. Churchill is a regular speaker on issues of indigenous
    cultures on campuses across the country. He spoke last month at Miami
    University in Ohio, and about a year ago he spoke not far from
    Hamilton at Syracuse University. Those appearances did not generate
    such reaction.

    Ms. Rabinowitz suggested the Hamilton event may have grabbed media
    attention because the victims' families got involved and because the
    college had just recently been in the news for hiring Susan Rosenberg,
    a former radical leftist who spent 16 years in federal prison.

    Ms. Rabinowitz said she was saddened by the president's decision to
    cancel the event. "I don't sit in her shoes," she said. "I wasn't in
    the room when they were talking about it." But the decision will chill
    free speech, she said: "Not just that it's canceled because of the
    threats, but it will make you rethink other events."

    In Colorado, meanwhile, Gov. Bill Owens on Tuesday called for Mr.
    Churchill to resign from the faculty. The professor had already
    announced on Monday that he was stepping down as chairman of the
    ethnic-studies department but that he would remain as a faculty
    member. In addition, the University of Colorado's Board of Regents
    plans to hold a special meeting on Thursday to discuss Mr. Churchill.

    Attempts to reach Mr. Churchill were unsuccessful. Ms. Rabinowitz said
    that the professor was disappointed that the Hamilton event had been
    canceled and that he and his wife, who was also scheduled to speak,
    had been prepared to attend the discussion despite receiving death

    In a written statement released on Monday, Mr. Churchill said the
    analysis of his comments had been "grossly inaccurate." He said he was
    not defending the September 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

    He also said that the best way to avoid another such attack is for
    American citizens to force the U.S. government to comply with the rule
    of law. "The lesson of Nuremburg is that this is not only our right,
    but our obligation," he said. "To the extent we shirk this
    responsibility, we, like the 'good Germans' of the 1930s and 40s, are
    complicit in its actions and have no legitimate basis for complaint
    when we suffer the consequences."

    Background article from The Chronicle:
      * [61]Former Radical Withdraws From Hamilton College Post (1/7/2005)


   45. mailto:scott.smallwood at chronicle.com
   61. http://chronicle.com/weekly/v51/i18/18a00701.htm

E-mail me if you have problems getting the referenced articles.
College Cancels Speech by Professor Who Disparaged 9/11 Attack Victims
New York Times, 5.2.2


    CLINTON, N.Y., Feb. 1 - Over the last five days, tiny Hamilton
    College in upstate New York has been barraged with more than 6,000
    e-mail messages full of fury, some threatening violence. Some donors
    have canceled pledges to an ambitious capital campaign. And
    prospective students have withdrawn applications or refused to enroll.

    Then, on Monday night, a caller to the college threatened to bring a
    gun to campus.

    Stunned and frightened, Hamilton leaders sought to end the turmoil on
    Tuesday by canceling the event that set it off: a planned speech by a
    Colorado professor who was invited to talk about American Indian
    activism but whose earlier essay on the Sept. 11 attacks fueled the
    criticism and threats. The professor, Ward Churchill of the University
    of Colorado, Boulder, wrote disparagingly of the victims inside the
    twin towers and referred to them at one point as "little Eichmanns," a
    reference to Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the Holocaust.

    The speech, scheduled for Thursday night, was canceled for security
    reasons, Hamilton officials said. Mr. Churchill said he and his wife
    had received more than 100 death threats, and other warnings of
    violence mentioned Hamilton officials, including the president, Joan
    Hinde Stewart. Yet the uproar also adds a twist to decades of battles
    over free speech on campus, showing the powerful emotional resonance
    of Sept. 11.

    In a telephone interview on Tuesday night, Mr. Churchill called the
    threats against Hamilton College "American terrorism." He urged those
    making the threats to "take a look in the mirror."

    Matt House, a freshman studying government, said, "We have
    controversial speakers on campus all the time, but I think everyone's
    so upset because it's only been three years since 9/11 and this is
    striking New York too close to home."

    "In this case, 9/11 trumps free speech, I guess," added Brian J.
    Farnkoff, a senior majoring in public policy. "In the end, free speech
    couldn't happen at Hamilton."

    In recent days, Gov. George E. Pataki said he was appalled at Mr.
    Churchill's remarks and at Hamilton for inviting him, and a Fox News
    host, Bill O'Reilly, repeatedly urged viewers to e-mail the college in
    protest. Ms. Stewart, the president, as well as the professors who
    invited Mr. Churchill, said they did not know about his essay before
    asking him to campus. She denounced his comments in December, but said
    rescinding the invitation would harm First Amendment principles.

    "His remarks about the victims of 9/11 are repellent, but our reaction
    to 'repellent' is how we test the right to free speech," Ms. Stewart
    said in an interview on Tuesday shortly before addressing the turn of
    events with the Hamilton faculty, who gave her a standing ovation.

    "We did our best to protect the principles and the values that we
    believe in - the right to speak, to study, to teach freely - but the
    point came that I simply felt that this threat was too large for us to
    handle," said Ms. Stewart, who was told by campus security that even
    additional police officers could not ensure safety.

    Hamilton, a campus of 1,750 students, has always had a reputation for
    accepting divergent voices. In November, the same program that invited
    this speaker - the Kirkland Project for the Study of Gender, Society
    and Culture - hired Susan Rosenberg, a former member of the Weather
    Underground, after her release from prison on explosives charges. She
    later withdrew in the face of protest.

    On another end of the political spectrum, the scholar Elizabeth
    Fox-Genovese equated abortion to murder during her talk to a packed,
    polite campus auditorium last Thursday. According to The Spectator,
    the weekly student newspaper, she also said that empowering humans to
    choose who lives and who dies "opens the road to the Holocaust."

    Mr. Churchill - who had planned to give his remarks Thursday in a flak
    jacket with two bodyguards in tow - was originally scheduled to speak
    by himself, but Ms. Stewart and others added three people to the panel
    and changed its focus to free speech. One of those added was Mr.
    Churchill's wife, who is also a scholar. The Churchills were to be
    paid $3,500, but volunteered this week to forgo the money because of
    the complaints.

    In his original essay, Mr. Churchill wrote that the thousands killed
    at the World Trade Center had played a role in American sanctions on
    Iraq that "translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling
    distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants."

    "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 wrote.

    The bulk of the outraged e-mail messages began arriving last weekend,
    after Mr. O'Reilly of Fox had urged viewers to contact Hamilton.

    "If you allow this vile individual to speak you forever label yourself
    as the Auschwitz of American colleges," stated one e-mail message
    among nearly 400 that Hamilton posted on its Web site to show the
    reaction to Mr. Churchill.

    "Would he feel the same way about his own wife or child if they worked
    in the W.T.C. and were lost because they went to work that day," wrote
    the spouse of a rescue-operations captain who was killed. "He should
    be banned on the grounds of slandering the victims of such a brutal
    terrorist attack."

    Ms. Stewart said she alone received 6,000 messages, describing them as
    "ranging from angry to profane, obscene, violent," and asserted that
    Hamilton's actions had been mischaracterized by many of the writers,
    as well as by Mr. O'Reilly.

    Controversial speakers are nothing new to academic institutions: For
    years, Leonard Jeffries of the City University of New York would
    create a stir on campus and elsewhere with provocative remarks, and a
    Columbia University faculty panel is now investigating remarks by some
    pro-Palestinian professors that offended some Jewish students.

    In 2002, hundreds of Harvard students protested when a graduating
    senior was chosen to deliver a commencement speech entitled, "The
    American Jihad." The student, Zayed Yasin, who received a death
    threat, said his speech was a defense of the meaning of jihad as a
    nonviolent struggle to do right. After negotiations with a
    representative of Harvard's Jewish community, Mr. Yasin changed the
    title to "Of Faith and Citizenship," and delivered his remarks under
    tight security.

    Later in 2002, Harvard College's English Department canceled a campus
    reading by a poet who had once referred in verse to the Israeli Army
    as a "Zionist SS." and had criticized American-born Jewish settlers.
    As at Hamilton, professors at Harvard said they had not known about
    the remarks of the poet, Tom Paulin, before inviting him.

    As Hamilton was trying to contain the outrage on Tuesday, political
    and university officials in Colorado were criticizing Mr. Churchill.

    Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, called on him to resign from the
    university, while Representative Mark Udall, a Democrat, said in a
    statement that the professor was "factually inaccurate" about the
    terrorist attacks and owed the families of victims an apology. Mr.
    Churchill gave up his chairmanship of the ethnic studies department
    this week, and a spokeswoman said that the university's governing
    body, the nine-member Board of Regents, would meet Thursday to discuss
    his future.

    Kirk Johnson and Michelle York contributed reporting for this article.

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