AURORA, Colo. – University of Colorado administrators Thursday took the first steps toward a possible dismissal of a professor who likened World Trade Center (search) victims to a notorious Nazi.
Interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano ordered a 30-day review of Ward Churchill's (search) speeches and writings that will determine if the professor overstepped his boundaries of academic freedom and whether that should be grounds for dismissal.
Also Thursday, the Board of Regents issued an apology for Churchill's remarks at a meeting and voted to support the university's review of Churchill.
The raucous meeting drew dozens of protesters who back Churchill; at least two were arrested for disrupting the meeting and another was led away in handcuffs.
The regents refused to take public comment at their meeting, prompting an outcry from some of the 35 students who carried signs reading, "Protect academic freedom" and "Witch hunt." About a dozen professors also attended.
"I wish the regents had agreed to take some public comments," said law professor Barbara Bintliff, chairwoman of the Boulder Faculty Assembly (search). "Discussion and debate is what a university is all about."
Gov. Bill Owens issued a written statement saying he deplored the behavior of some of the students at the meeting, and that their behavior underscored the "culture of violence" that can be spawned by essays such as Churchill's.
Owens has called for Churchill's firing.
The furor erupted last month after Churchill was invited to speak at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Campus officials discovered an essay and follow-up book by Churchill in which he said the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were a response to a history of American abuses abroad, particularly against indigenous peoples.
Among other things, he said those killed in the trade center were "little Eichmanns," a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who organized Nazi plans to exterminate Jews. The college canceled Churchill's appearance, citing death threats and concerns about security.
University officials have previously condemned Churchill's comments but defended his right to express them. University President Elizabeth Hoffman declined to comment Thursday on Churchill's future.
Churchill, whose pickup truck was vandalized with swastikas in front of his Boulder home sometime late Tuesday, has promised to sue the school if he is removed.
Earlier Thursday, the state Senate passed a resolution denouncing Churchill's comments as "evil and inflammatory." The nonbinding resolution was identical to one passed Wednesday by the House.
Democratic state Sen. Peter Groff cast the lone "no" vote, saying he disagreed with Churchill but that the resolution provides him with undeserved attention and attacks free speech.