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Free to Speak?

By: Justin Williams
By: Justin Williams

The campus controversy continues Thursday, as the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater chancellor announces a decision in the situation surrounding a scheduled guest speaker.

UW Whitewater Junior, Katie DeLong says, "Everyone wants to know, you know, what is he gonna say, you know, what's gonna happen?"

And, apparently, they'll get this opportunity-as Thursday, the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater chancellor says he will tentatively allow controversial speaker, Ward Churchill, to proceed as planned.

Howard Ross is the Dean of Whitewater's College of Letters and Sciences. He says, "This invitation to Ward Churchill went out, oh, six to seven months ago, way before he became THE Ward Churchill."

Ross explains when Churchill, who is a professor at the University of Colorado, was invited to visit the campus, no one was aware of his comments comparing victims of Sept. 11 attacks to Nazis.

Canceling now, Ross adds, would threaten everyone's First Amendment rights.

"I tell students that our stand in the college is protecting your rights to free speech, we protect everyone's right, including Mr. Churchill's rights."

Churchill is scheduled to take this Hamilton Center stage to discuss issues involving the Native American community as part of the campus' Native Pride Week, but Ross concedes, while the topic of discussion will begin there, he fully expects it to move elsewhere.

Whitewater student Brad Blatnik expresses his desire.

"Allow him to say what he needs to say, question it, ask him questions, fine, but let him get his point out and then go from there."

Meanwhile, DeLong continues, "I wanna hear him explain his comments because, you know, that's why everyone's probably gonna be there is because, you know, they wanna know why he said it, they wanna know what he said."

University officials stipulate Churchill can only speak if security is not compromised, no public funds are used, and another forum is held to discuss opposing points of view.

In an essay, Churchill calls workers in the World Trade Center “Little Eichmans,” a reference to Adolf Eichman, who helped maintain Nazi operations.

The UW-Whitewater chancellor calls Churchill's statements “despicable.”


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