A firestorm of protests erupted over the public remarks of Professor Ward Churchill of the University of Colorado at Boulder. Churchill used the term "little Eichmanns" to characterize some of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. In his defense Churchill wrote, "I am not a 'defender' of the September 11 attacks, but simply pointing out that if U.S. foreign policy results in massive death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is returned." And also, "I have never characterized all the September 11 victims as 'Nazis.' What I said was that the 'technocrats of empire' working in the World Trade Center were the equivalent of 'little Eichmanns.'" Not surprisingly, many Americans were deeply offended by Churchill's remarks and called for him to be fired.
However, never is the importance of academic freedom of greater consequence than when defending the most unpopular views. The national AAUP issued a statement that concluded by saying, "The critical test of academic freedom is its capacity to meet even the most painful and offending statements. A college or university campus is, of all places in our society, the most appropriate forum for the widest range of viewpoints."
On Tuesday, March 8, 2005, the Executive Committee of the UI Chapter of AAUP adopted the following resolution and forwarded it to the Board of Regents of the University of Colorado:
"It is hereby RESOLVED, that academic freedom being a core value of higher education, particularly public higher education, that freedom of inquiry and open debate are central to academic freedom, that Prof. Ward Churchill's radical critique of the events of September 11, 2001 falls within the scope of academic freedom, and that the ongoing investigation into Prof. Churchill's scholarship and credentials, as well as the personal vilification of him and death threats made against him, were prompted by his voicing that radical critique, the EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA CHAPTER OF THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS urges the University of Colorado to desist from any actions that may adversely affect Prof. Churchill's tenured status on the basis of his critique, to refrain from scrutinizing his employment in any way different from those applied to other tenured faculty members, and to re-affirm its commitment to academic freedom, tenure, shared governance, and due process."
On Wednesday, March 9, 2005, a virtually identical resolution was adopted by the UI Faculty Senate and forwarded to the University of Colorado Board of Regents.