Two faculty leaders issued a statement this week proposing that a controversial professor whose appearance at Eastern Washington University was canceled still be allowed to address the campus.
Citing security concerns, Eastern President Stephen Jordan last week canceled an April 5 speech by University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill.
Churchill, who planned to discuss Native American issues, has gained notoriety since a portion of a 2001 essay he wrote about the Sept. 11 attacks was widely publicized last month. The essay compared victims in the World Trade Center to a Nazi leader.
A few days before EWU’s action, Hamilton College in New York also canceled a Churchill speech. Officials there said they received several threats of violence, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. EWU and at least one other college followed Hamilton’s lead.
In the three-page letter sent to EWU faculty on Wednesday, Faculty Organization President Patty Chantrill and United Faculty of Eastern President Tony Flinn say the cancellation endangers free speech.
“We’re not criticizing (Jordan’s) decision, but we are concerned about the consequences of his decision,” said United Faculty President Tony Flinn.
The letter calls on Eastern to allow Churchill to address the campus by teleconference, an idea that Jordan proposed at a board of trustees meeting last week.
Jordan said he is forming a committee to examine how Churchill can present his ideas.
“Can this be done in a safe manner? That’s the No. 1 issue,” Jordan said Thursday.
If an electronic appearance isn’t possible, the two faculty organizations will “draw upon the meager resources” of the groups to sponsor a Churchill appearance in Spokane, the letter says.
“I’m really confident that we can work with the administration to come to a solution that doesn’t end in a dis-invitation,” Chantrill said in an interview.
The letter calls people who threatened violence “terrorists” and requests that Jordan and the board of trustees publicly condemn anyone who incited harm.
“… We do not believe, now that the terrorists have been satisfied, that we are no longer in the crosshairs of their aim,” the letter said.
An electronic appearance would not satisfy EWU graduate student Keven Shipman.
“It’s just a completely different thing to have a person there in person,” said Shipman, who has taught EWU classes on Indian wars and civil rights activism. “It’s making a very negative precedent as far as free speech. I really worry about that, especially on college campuses.”