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Doctor recommended for optimal cerebral hygiene 

no, buffs...

Thursday, February 03, 2005

it's been...oh, a few years since i attended the university of colorado. during my time there the football program was atrocious and binge drinking was a serious concern.

kind of like now.

the social climate has changed a bit since then, however. for one thing, the first amendment doesn't seem to have the cache it once did.

and these days a tenured CU professor is on the brink of losing his job because some people don't like his politics.

in 2001 the professor, ward churchill, wrote a scathing assessment of the 9/11 attacks in an online essay. he opined that the attacks on the world trade towers and the pentagon were an understandable, predictable response to u.s. policies in the middle east and elsewhere.

while i disagree with most of the rantings in his essay, i think he had an interesting point of view. i can see how some would find his analysis persuasive.

suddenly, however, professor churchill has been targeted by the colorado state legislature for his opinions, and a firestorm has ensued.

the rocky mountain news says:

From the governor's office to the floors of the House and Senate, lawmakers of both political stripes fumed over what they said were the University of Colorado teacher's "anti-American, pro-terrorist" remarks that "justify" attacks on the U.S.

the denver post says:

The Colorado state Senate today joined the House in passing a resolution denouncing a University of Colorado professor who likened some victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks to a notorious Nazi.

The nonbinding resolution was identical to one passed Wednesday by the House, calling Ward Churchill's comments "evil and inflammatory."

Gov. Bill Owens has asked the university to fire Churchill, saying the school had legal grounds to dismiss him even though he is protected by tenure.

churchill has received a pile of hate mail in recent days, and some clever vandal spray-painted swastikas on his truck.

all of these folks, apparently, vehemently disagree with professor churchill.

quick poll: who's the better american, churchill or the people now trying to shut him up?

never mind, we'll come back to that question.

first, a refresher: the first amendment to the constitution of the united states declares that "congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech."

as a result, americans have the right to:

Desecrate the national flag as a symbol of protest.
Burn the cross as an expression of racial bigotry and hatred.
Espouse the violent overthrow of the government as long as it is mere abstract advocacy and not an immediate incitement to violence.
Traffic in sexually explicit erotica as long as it does not meet a rigorous definition of "hard core" obscenity.
Defame public officials and public figures with falsehoods provided they are not published with knowledge of their falsity or reckless disregard for the truth.
Disseminate information invading personal privacy if the revelation is deemed "newsworthy."
Engage in countless other forms of expression that would be outlawed in many nations but are regarded as constitutionally protected here.

as public officials, wouldn't you think the governor and legislature of colorado would be aware of first amendment protections? they're elected officials, after all, and as such are charged with defending the constitution.

they don't have the latitude to defend the parts of the constitution they like, or defending it when they find it personally gratifying or politically expedient. they should know this, right? unless each and every one of them missed "getting to know the constitution" during their post-election orientation day.

the CU faculty, bless them, has issued a statement defending academic freedom and reminding folks that freedom of expression is a fairly important tenet of american liberty.

Today, the University of Colorado has been challenged again to defend the principles of academic freedom to a public that may not appreciate fully the essential requirements and benefits of debate and differing views in an institution of higher education. Professor Ward Churchill's writings contravene accepted thinking and community sentiment. Reasonable people may consider them controversial, offensive, and odious in some of the examples used; indeed, many faculty are themselves offended. The widespread release of these writings through the media has brought calls for censure and punishment of Professor Churchill.

The University, through its Regents and administration, must resist these pressures. If we stand for the dissemination of knowledge, of the freedom to question, and of freedom of expression, then we must protect all, including Professor Churchill and others, expressing the most unpopular sentiments. Anything less than an affirmation of academic freedom for all the University's faculty is an admission that we are not truly committed to the University's mission and philosophy.

at a meeting today of the university of colorado board of regents, lots of interested people were on hand to see what would happen next. some students were hauled off and arrested, and one of the regents, republican tom lucero, said:

"...he will propose a thorough review of all of CU's core curriculum and have departments defend their programs. He also said he will propose a way to terminate tenured professors through an administrative process rather than only through a faculty review." (Boulder Daily Camera)

Four Republican lawmakers went further, saying they will try to cut CU's budget by $100,000 to reimburse taxpayers for Churchill's salary. (Rocky Mtn. News)

let's get back to my question. this is america we're talking about. and, as americans, we've been told all our lives that we have certain inalienable rights and liberties (stop me if i'm straying from fact here).

you might say that as americans, we have a responsibility to help perpetuate and sustain those rights and liberties (unless of course the existence of the country as we know it has been based on a faulty premise all these generations).

so i ask you once again: in this little drama, who is the better representative of the american ideal, professor churchill or the people screaming for him to shut the hell up?