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The attorney representing fired University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill is threatening legal action if the school doesn’t waive a $3,000 fee for student groups hosting an appearance next week by former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers.
David Lane, who represents Churchill, said Thursday the fee is exorbitant and an unconstitutional restraint on free speech.
The university says the fee is standard for any event requiring security.
CU attorney Pat O’Rourke said he’s reviewing Lane’s demand.
CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard said it’s standard to charge student groups fees to recoup security costs for large events. He said the $3,000 charge is toward the lower end of what the school charges.
“This is a standard procedure with speakers who might generate controversy,” Hilliard said. “It’s for the protection of the speaker.”
For example, Hilliard said, the College Republicans paid for security when the group hosted two self-labeled terrorists-turned-peace activists at a talk last spring called “Why We Want to Kill You.”
Ayers and Churchill are scheduled to speak at “Forbidden Education and the Rise of Neo-McCarthyism” on Thursday at the Glenn Miller Ballroom. The event is sponsored by Students for True Academic Freedom, the Student Environmental Action Coalition and 180 Degree Shift at the 11th Hour.
Churchill, an ethnic studies professor, gained national attention in 2005 when news surfaced of an essay he’d written three years earlier about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In it, he referred to World Trade Center workers as “little Eichmanns,” a reference to Nazi Adolf Eichmann, the so-called “architect of the Holocaust.”
Following the outcry over Churchill’s remarks, CU began probing his work. He was fired in 2007 for academic misconduct after officials concluded he plagiarized and lied about historical facts in his writings.
Churchill sued the university to get his job back; that case goes to trial in Denver on March 9.
Ayers this week told the Colorado Daily he believes Churchill was fired because of his comments about 9/11.
“It was a political witch hunt,” Ayers said. “That’s what happened to him.”
CU officials have maintained Churchill was fired purely over issues of academic misconduct.
“The university ruled his free speech was protected, but accusations made by academics from Nova Scotia to New Mexico alleging academic misconduct are not charges the university can ignore simply because Churchill is a controversial, outspoken public intellectual.” Hilliard wrote in an e-mail earlier this week.
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