A University of Colorado professor who compared the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center to Nazis has ignited protests on a college campus where he's been invited to speak.
Ward Churchill, an expert on indigenous issues and chairman of the ethnic studies program at the CU-Boulder, will take part in a panel discussion Feb. 3 at Hamilton College.
Administrators defended Churchill's appearance but admitted his views are considered "repugnant and disparaging" by many people.
"Hamilton, like any institution committed to the free exchange of ideas, invites to its campus people of diverse opinions, often controversial," the school said in a statement issued by college spokesman Michael DeBraggio.
On Thursday, CU Interim Chancellor Phil Distefano issued a statement that said:
"I wish to make it clear that Professor Ward Churchill's views of the events of 9/11 are his own and do not represent the views of University of Colorado faculty, staff, students, administration or Regents. While I may personally find his views offensive, I also must support his right as an American citizen to hold and express his views, no matter how repugnant, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution."
In a treatise titled, "Some People Push Back," written after the attacks, Churchill asserted the 3,000 people killed at the World Trade Center worked for "the mighty engine of profit" but chose to ignore their role.
"True enough, they were civilians of a sort," he wrote. "But innocent? Gimme a break."
Churchill went on to describe the World Trade Center victims as "little Eichmanns," a reference to Adolph Eichmann, who carried out Hitler's plan to exterminate Europe's Jews during World War II.
The invitation to Churchill has split the campus of 1,700 students, as well as the faculty.
Art history professor Steven Goldberg said it was "morally outrageous" to bring Churchill to campus. History professor Robert Paquette called it "an act of utter irresponsibility."
Jessica Miraglia, 19, a sophomore from Reading, Pa., created a poster that read: "You don't have to agree with them in order to learn from them."
Sophomore Matt Coppo, 21, lost his father, Joseph Coppo Jr., in the World Trade Center attacks, and was angered over the invitation to Churchill.
"Knowing that I'm paying for a person to disrespect my father, it doesn't go over too well in my mind," Coppo said.
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