CU balks at firing professor over his Sept. 11 comments |

CU balks at firing professor over his Sept. 11 comments

DENVER – University of Colorado officials said Thursday the First Amendment bars them from firing a professor for comparing some of the Sept. 11 victims to a Nazi, but they launched an investigation into claims he committed plagiarism and falsely claimed to be an American Indian.Professor Ward Churchill’s comments were “profoundly offensive, abusive and misguided” but are protected by the Constitution, acting Chancellor Phil DiStefano said in a report anxiously awaited by faculty at the Boulder school and beyond.However, DiStefano said a faculty committee would examine the other allegations and could recommend that Churchill, a tenured professor of ethnic studies, be fired or disciplined. That review could take up to nine months, he said.Churchill touched off a national furor with an essay calling some of the World Trade Center victims “Little Eichmanns,” a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who orchestrated the Holocaust.Churchill said the finding on free speech was a vindication but called the other allegations a pretext for an attempt to fire him.”The motive remains the speech,” he said in an interview. He denied plagiarizing anyone and insisted he is part Indian.The case has sparked outrage from two governors and prompted a national debate about free speech and tenure, which generally protects university faculty from discipline for their views. The school on Thursday also said it would review its tenure process.Churchill wrote the essay hours after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but it received little attention until January, when he was invited to speak at Hamilton College in New York. A professor there said he found the essay on the internet and called it to the attention of the student newspaper.Senate backs final budget proposalDENVER – A bipartisan plan to solve Colorado’s fiscal crisis won support from the state Senate on Thursday, even as Gov. Bill Owens took fresh criticism from some of his fellow Republicans for supporting it.Sen. John Evans, R-Parker, said he was shocked Owens ended up agreeing to a deal. And House Minority Leader Joe Stengel, a Littleton Republican, said he opposed the compromise because a telephone poll of his district showed people had little interest in giving up tax refunds, as the plan calls for.”It’s going to be a tough campaign. It’s complicated, it’s complex,” Stengel said of the proposal.The compromise plan would allow the state to keep an estimated $3.1 billion over five years that would normally be refunded under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. Legislative economists estimate taxpayers would give up an average of $73 in sales tax refunds in each of the first four years, growing from an average of $55 next year to $91 in 2010.Douglas County teacher arrested in alleged sexual assault on studentCASTLE ROCK – A 35-year-old social studies teacher at Ponderosa High School has been arrested for investigation of charges that she had sex with a student.Nicole Andrea Barnhart was jailed on $50,000 bond, Douglas County sheriff’s Lt. Alan Stanton said in a statement Thursday. She was arrested Wednesday for investigation of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust and for demonstrating a pattern of abuse. Both are felonies.If convicted on both counts, she faces six to 18 years in prison. A message left at a number listed for the teacher in a Denver suburb was not immediately returned.Outdoorsy or not, Colorado loses status as leanest stateDENVER – For years, Colorado has been ranked the leanest state in the country with a reputation as a magnet for hard bodies who love the outdoors.But over the past 15 years, the percentage of obese Coloradans has grown faster than any other state, except Virginia. Colorado’s growing weight problem has alarmed health experts and grabbed the attention of state lawmakers, who are considering bills designed to encourage children to exercise and choose healthy foods and to include obesity treatment under Medicaid.According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6.9 percent of Colorado residents in 1990 were considered obese. By 2003, the latest figures available from the CDC, that figure had risen to 16 percent.

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