Embattled University of Colorado professor gets standing ovation | SummitDaily.com

Embattled University of Colorado professor gets standing ovation

University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill, right, hugs American Indian Movement leader Russell Means after he introduced Churchill for his address to students at Memorial Student Center in Boulder, Colo., Tuesday night, Feb. 8, 2005. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

BOULDER ” An embattled University of Colorado professor who likened Sept. 11 victims to Nazis got a standing ovation when he told a campus audience of more than 1,000 that “I’m not backing up an inch.”

Ward Churchill addressed an overflow crowd at the university Tuesday night, hours after school officials reversed themselves and agreed to let the event go on. They had canceled the speech on Monday, citing security threats, but relented after Churchill and supporters filed a lawsuit.

Churchill was defiant in the face of calls by Gov. Bill Owens for his dismissal and an apology by the Board of Regents “to all Americans” for Churchill’s writings.

“I don’t answer to Bill Owens. I do not answer to the Board of Regents in the way they think I do. The regents should do their job and let me do mine,” Churchill said to thunderous applause.

“I’m not backing up an inch. I owe no one an apology,” he said later.

Churchill, an ethnic studies professor, has resigned as chairman of his department. University administrators are investigating whether the tenured professor can be removed.

In an essay, Churchill wrote that some workers in the World Trade Center were “little Eichmanns,” a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who ensured the smooth running of the Nazi system. Churchill also spoke of the “gallant sacrifices” of the “combat teams” that struck America.

During his 35-minute speech, Churchill said the essay was referring to “technocrats” who participate in what he calls repressive American policies around the world, not the children, firefighters, janitors or passers-by who were killed.

About two dozen police officers were scattered through the hall and among an overflow crowd of about 250, who stood bundled up outside in the cold, listening on loudspeakers.

The crowd was loud but orderly, and most supported Churchill.

“I’ve read some of Ward’s work,” said 26-year-old Vinita Laroia, an environmental studies major. “I think what he has to say is true and interesting. I wanted to hear his actual voice say what he’s thinking.”

The Boulder Faculty Assembly, which represents professors at the university’s main campus, has said Churchill’s comments were “controversial, offensive and odious” but supports his right to say them based on the principle of academic freedom.

The essay and follow-up book attracted little attention until Churchill was invited to speak last month at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., which later canceled his talk out of security concerns.

The ACLU issued a statement defending Churchill’s right to speak out and called on regents, legislators and the governor “to stop threatening Mr. Churchill’s job because of the content of his opinions.”

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