Published November 01, 2007
Former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill no longer is a member of the faculty but he is holding classes on campus after his dismissal following a controversial Sept. 11 essay comparing victims to a Nazi leader.
The classes, covering topics including colonialism, genocide and racism, are organized by the students who then invite Churchill to speak.
"We feel Ward has a right to say what he wants to say," Aaron Smith, a political science and ethnic studies senior, told FOXNews.com.
Smith, one of the discussions' organizers, said about 75 students usually show up but it is hard to get them to commit to assignments since they can't receive grades for them.
The discussions on campus aim to make a statement about academic freedom and free speech, Smith said.
Churchill sparked national outrage after his essay called some victims "little Eichmanns," a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who helped Adolf Hitler's plan to kill Jews during World War II.
Churchill lost his job in July after the University of Colorado governing board fired him following accusations of plagiarism, falsification and other university misconduct. His Sept. 11 essay ignited an investigation over his writings and research.
University officials responded to concerns about Churchill's writings, apologizing to America for the essay, and former New York Gov. George Pataki called Churchill a "bigoted terrorist supporter."
The University of Colorado says Churchill is allowed on campus since he is a private citizen but students cannot receive academic credit for attending the discussions.
"They are doing everything they can to make it look like Ward Churchill is teaching again at the University of Colorado," said Bronson Hilliard, a university spokesman.
The university does not recognize the discussions as courses or an official representation of the University of Colorado academic work, Hilliard said.
Churchill is receiving a year's pay under a long-held university agreement following his dismissal, Hilliard said.
Churchill did not respond for comment.
David Lane, Churchill’s attorney, said he doesn’t know if Churchill views the discussions as a return to campus, he just enjoys teaching.
"I’m sure they are going very well; he’s an excellent professor," Lane said.
Smith, who took a class with Churchill amid the debate over his research and writings, agreed.
"He pushes us to think critically about issues that are left outside of the main chronicles of history," Smith said. "He tries to have us not only look from the perspective of the dominant, but from the perspective of the oppressed."
The university also is wrapped up in a legal battle with the former professor. Churchill filed a complaint claiming the university and university regents violated his First Amendment rights to free speech.
The university filed motions in September to dismiss the complaint and Lane, Churchill's attorney, filed a response last week. The university will file reply briefs to his response soon, said Ken McConnellogue, a spokesman for the CU System. There won't be a ruling for about a month, he added.