BOULDER, Colo. – University of Colorado (search) President Betsy Hoffman said a professor who compared Sept. 11 victims to Nazis will not be fired if a review turns up only inflammatory comments, not misconduct.
"If we find it is just about speech, there will be no action," Hoffman told the school's faculty assembly Thursday, adding that she feared a "new McCarthyism" was responsible for the uproar over Ward Churchill's essay.
The university is reviewing Churchill's speeches and lectures to see whether he should be dismissed for exceeding the boundaries of academic freedom. A decision is expected next week.
Hoffman did not comment on published reports this week that the university was considering buying out Churchill's contract to end the firestorm over his essay.
Gov. Bill Owens (search) called on the university to fire the tenured professor, and some lawmakers have suggested reducing the school's funding.
Churchill's essay, which likened "technocrats" killed in the World Trade Center (search) to Adolf Eichmann, attracted little attention until January when he was invited to speak at a college in upstate New York. The college and a handful of other schools canceled Churchill's appearances, citing security concerns.
Churchill says he wrote the essay after television networks characterized the attacks as senseless. He contends they were the logical result of repressive U.S. policies.