Students in standoff with CU

March 4, 2009

From Channel 7 News.

The University of Colorado Boulder student group that is bringing former CU professor Ward Churchill and former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers to campus is locked in a standoff with the university over who will pay thousands of dollars for extra security at the event.

Students for True Academic Freedom, which is sponsoring the event, said CU officials are unfairly imposing a $3,000 security fee to try to stop the event from happening.

The fee would cover the cost of having campus police at the engagement.

“The fees are exorbitant,” said Aaron Smith, an organizer with the group. Smith said his group has already arranged for student security and neither Ayers nor Churchill has requested extra security.

“There’s an effort to punish us financially, our student group specifically, because of the nature of who we’re bringing out,” said another organizer, Sean Daly.

Churchill is the former CU professor who was fired after an investigation at CU revealed that he had plagiarized some of his academic work. The former professor believes he was fired over a controversial essay about 9-11, in which he referred to the victims of the World Trade Center attack as “little Eichmanns,” in reference to a Nazi war criminal.

Ayers once belonged to the 1960s radical group The Weather Underground, which set off bombs at government buildings to protest the Vietnam War.

Students for True Academic Freedom invited Ayers and activist Derrick Jensen to speak at the event in support of Churchill and to draw attention to his lawsuit against the university, which goes before a judge March 9. Churchill will be featured in a question and answer period after Ayers and Jensen speak.

CU Boulder spokesman Bronson Hilliard said the decision to add the extra security fee was based on logistics, not content.

“It’s got nothing to do with any difference of opinion we would have with Mr. Churchill or anyone else,” Hilliard said. “It has to do with a baseline assessment of the security needs we have to make that a safe evening for everyone in the audience and for these speakers themselves.”

Again, horseshit. The students have been keeping me apprised of the backstory, and it’s obvious that the university is going out of its way to assess punitive charges. The students deliberately chose the UMC as the venue for this event, because the UMC has its own security available at a much lower cost.  Likewise, as Aaron Smith and Sean Daly point out later in the article, Ayers, Churchill, and Jensen have all spoken at CU in the last couple of years, and they’ve never been forced to pay for extra security.

And maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want the CU police there at all. Given the nature of this event, and CU police’s behavior at past student events, they’re a hell of a lot more likely to be a disruption than any kind of help.

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