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October 28, 2005 [feather]
Ward Churchill does DePaul

Last week, Ward Churchill spoke at DePaul University. His visit caused enormous controversy, in part because Churchill causes controversy wherever he goes, but also because the visit highlighted what looks to be an institutional double standard about who does and does not get to speak at the school.

Last year, DePaul suspended adjunct professor Thomas Klocek after some Palestinian students with whom he had disagreed filed a complaint against him. Denied due process and defamed in the student press, Klocek has sued the university. His case is pending, and he remains suspended from his job at DePaul. The message DePaul sent in suspending Klocek was that some views are more valid than others at the school; that students have the right not to be offended by the awareness that some of their professors disagree with their views; that it is somehow hurtful or harassing to be disagreed with; and that DePaul will do what it takes to "protect" students from the real-world truth that thinking people may arrive at vastly different conclusions about why the world is the way that it is and what ought to be done about it.

When DePaul subsequently invited Ward Churchill to speak--at a hefty fee--the university complicated the disturbing message it had sent with the Klocek affair by exposing itself as a bastion of hypocrisy. There is, perhaps, no other American academic working now who is more controversial, more deliberately incendiary, and more wilfully offensive, than Ward Churchill. And yet Churchill is welcome at DePaul while Klocek is not.

Perhaps even more to the point: While students who complained about Klocek succeeded in getting Klocek removed from the classroom, students who objected to Churchill's visit were themselves punished. The College Republicans were forbidden to post flyers protesting Churchill's visit--even though the flyers did nothing more than reprint one of Churchill's own publicity photos and quote some of his more outrageous words. When the College Republicans sought an explanation for why the school had paid good money to bring Churchill in, they were peremptorily dismissed by Harvette Gray, who directs the Cultural Center, and banned from the Cultural Center itself. They were also blocked from attending a scheduled follow-up discussion designed to allow students to talk informally with Churchill.

The talk itself sounds like a fiasco. DePaul mathematics professor Jon Cohen provides a detailed account of it here, replete with information about how the audience was led through a guided chanting session before the talk, how Harvette Gray introduced Churchill by criticizing those who had opposed his visit and by noting that McCarthyism is alive and well in contemporary America, and how Churchill comported himself during what sounds less like a planned talk than an angry display of ideological free association. According to Cohen, Churchill defended the 9/11 attacks, argued that he really is Native American and that "no white reporter is going to define whether or not I am an Indian," argued that white people use definitions of race to control people of color, demanded that all the "pure" white people in the audience raise their hands, and compared American capitalism to the Holocaust. During the question session, Churchill was so angered by one person's question about whether exporting jobs to the third world assists development through investment that he called people who are willing to entertain this question "Nazis." He also refused to address another audience member's question asking what he would do about "illegal immigration" by playing his own worn and highly contested race card: "illegal immigration," he snapped, began in this country in 1607.

Cohen reports, too, that after the talk ended, the audience members were addressed by Jim Doyle, DePaul's vice president for student affairs. Doyle delivered platitudes about the value of debate and controversy, and then chastised those audience members whose body language had informed him that they were not receptive to Churchill's views.

Cohen concludes with a series of questions that DePaul ought to answer, but won't:

1. Why was Churchill invited?

2. Why was the Human Rights Workshop open only to Cultural Center-funded student groups?

3. Why shouldn't the College Republicans be resentful of the fact that they have been effectively excluded from being funded by the Cultural Center?

4. Why was no media allowed to attend Churchill's talk?

5. Why were no recording devices allowed in the room?

6. Who is funding this event?

7. How much was the speaker paid?

8. Why should the students at DePaul who are white have their tuition dollars used to pay to have a demagogue like Ward Churchill incite hostility towards them simply because they are white.

9. Why are students being given extra credit for attending?

Another account of Churchill's talk is available here.

Both reports cite Churchill as saying that Hitler ought to have focussed his attentions on the audience's grandparents rather than on Jews. Churchill denies that he said this, noting that the reports confuse his reading of a piece of hate email he received with a statement he himself made, and calling those who reported those comments "not the brightest bulbs in the world and not the most honest." It's worth noting that Churchill's own academic honesty is presently under review at the University of Colorado, but it is also worth noting that an illicitly-made recording of the talk confirms Churchill's claim on this point. The recording also confirms the accuracy of the rest of Cohen's report.

Thanks to Maurice Black for the links.

posted on October 28, 2005 10:38 AM


I am not a Catholic, so maybe it's none of my business, but I don't understand why DePaul is allowed to continue to represent itself as a Catholic university. In particular, some of the statements made by DePaul administrators regarding the Klocek case seem quite contradictory to the position taken by the Pope on relativism.

Posted by: David Foster at October 28, 2005 12:12 PM

Ward Churchill actually suggested that illegal immigration began in North America in 1607--is he ignorant of the Spanish arrival or does he have something against non-Iberian Europeans? *confused while bemused*

Posted by: Armitage at October 28, 2005 12:46 PM

One would think that someone so, by his own claims, apt to be misrepresented and misunderstood, would want recordings of his words to be made, so the truth could shine out.

Or, of course, he could be lyin'.

Posted by: Sigivald at October 28, 2005 1:40 PM

I'm especially disturbed that a group of students was not allowed to post flyers regarding the talk. So much for the free exchange of ideas.

BTW, the link to the Jon Cohen piece actually goes to the American Thinker article.

Posted by: Rose Nunez at October 28, 2005 1:42 PM

Never mind--I see they're the same piece.

Posted by: Rose Nunez at October 28, 2005 1:42 PM

*Sigh* I shouldn't skim and rush to comment. Sorry; two different articles, different authors, same journal. Got it.

Posted by: Rose Nunez at October 28, 2005 1:44 PM

Lemme see here.

When they ousted Klocek sans due process, quoth DePaul via Dean Dumbleton (don't laugh please):

“No one should ever use the role of teacher to demean the ideas of others or insist on the absoluteness of an opinion, much less press erroneous assertions.”

and then...

“No student anywhere should ever have to be concerned that they will be verbally attacked for their religious beliefs or ethnicity.”

and the presiding dean was

“deeply saddened by the loss of intellectual empowerment that the students suffered.”

But wait, there's more, since the...

“students’ perspective was dishonored, and their freedom demeaned. Individuals were deeply insulted.”

We now have a VP pretty much doing the same thing to contrarian students, namely "Jews and Christians" (quoth Ms Gil) who apparently, didn't clap or otherwise had issues with DePaul's policy on speakers and the speaker himself.

As someone who is NOT an advisor for these students, I'd think it would be funny to for them to press charges against the administrators for this. If geese can’t get gravied while ganders can be sauced (or vice versa), there be issues here, and some serious fun at the expense of DePaul's questionable judicial system to be had!

Posted by: Bill at October 28, 2005 3:37 PM

Yo, Rose!

How 'bout some posts?

Posted by: David Foster at October 28, 2005 4:06 PM

:::“No student anywhere should ever have to be concerned that they will be verbally attacked for their religious beliefs or ethnicity.” :::

Am I the only one concerned that this "educator" with, I presume, a very advanced degree, cannot comprehend the idea of agreement of numbers and state, should he be worried about gender-specific wording, pluralize the subject "student"?

Posted by: tess at October 28, 2005 6:10 PM

Tess I can explain it. See he pluralized the word student when he talked about their "perspective" and used the singular when he spoke about religious beliefs and ethnicities. So the students have one perspective but each student has multiple religious beliefs and ethnicities. Doesn't make sense, I know, but when you are as worried about a loss of intellectual empowerment and dishonoring a perspective as the speaker was, that's how you see the world.

David, re: your first comment, I don't think this type of thing is all that unusual. As I recall, similar things have happened at Georgetown and other Catholic colleges. II'm not a Catholic either, but from what I've read, if you follow liberation theology, you find ways of getting around what the Pope said.

Posted by: Allan at October 29, 2005 12:14 AM

Read Ward Churchill's books and get the truth from the source. He is not, however, the Messiah. The oppression in the u.s. is overwhelming

Posted by: douglas schandelmeier at October 31, 2005 12:33 PM

"The oppression in the u.s. is overwhelming"

Now you see the violence inherent in The System! Help, help, I'm being oppresed! ;-)

Posted by: Dave J at October 31, 2005 11:32 PM

Solzhenitsyn wrote letters to a friend in which he wrote critically about "the man with the mustache". The people who routinely read everyone's mail looking for such things correctly recognized this as a reference to Stalin. He was sentenced to 8 years of hard labor because of those private letters to a friend. Tell me about oppression in America.

Posted by: Laura at November 1, 2005 7:29 AM

"Now you see the violence inherent in The System! Help, help, I'm being oppresed! ;-)"

Bloody peasant!

Posted by: Tait Ransom at November 1, 2005 10:48 AM

Cut Doug some slack here...

There have been enough posts via FIRE and those posted & cross-posted here by Erin to show that the "oppression in the u.s. *is* overwhelming" [emphasis mine] (on select university campuses such as DePaul, that is)....

Posted by: Bill at November 1, 2005 11:23 AM

I wanted to read more of what was written by Ward Churchill than the local news scoop of whether or not he should resign or be fired for his inflametory statements.

Posted by: John Beale at November 1, 2005 1:28 PM

So did I, and I have to say I wasn't impressed, both regarding his identity politics in answering the Native American groups with whom he's had a continued feud for years as well as his more "secular" work -- Especially his statements opposing free speech for people with whom he doesn't agree (e.g., his Columbus Day comments). A politically correct boot on the face will still leave the same deep treadmarks.

Posted by: Bill at November 1, 2005 1:42 PM

"Bloody peasant!"

Oh, what a giveaway. ;-)

Posted by: Dave J at November 3, 2005 1:53 AM