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A university temporarily suspended the email account of a professor after he called the school chancellor a “hitman” for reducing the faculty’s budget and eliminating jobs in the face of a financial shortfall.
Officials at Colorado State University at Pueblo told WND Tuesday the email for sociology professor Tim McGettigan had just been restored. It was shut down when officials determined his words violated university policy regarding the “use of electronic communications to intimidate, threaten, harass other individuals, or to interfere with the activity of others to conduct university business.”
In the face of a pending visit by CSU Chancellor Michael Martin to Pueblo to address the budget, McGettigan sent an email to students, staff, faculty and administrators. He compared the budget cuts to the attack on miners and their families a century ago by mine owners.
In that infamous episode in Colorado history in 1914, 18 innocent men, women and children were killed in a “carefully planned attack on the tent colony by Colorado militiamen, coal company guards and thugs hired as private detectives and strike breakers.”
The mine workers were striking in the midst of a campaign to join the UMWA. They were living in a tent city after being evicted from their company-owned homes when they were attacked by the “thugs.”
With that as the background, McGettigan wrote: “That was a century ago. But what, if anything, has changed in southern Colorado? … CSU Chancellor Michael Martin has assembled a hit list. Today, Michael Martin is traveling to CSU-Pueblo to terminate the 50 people who are on his hit list. In his own way, Michael Martin is putting a gun to the head of those 50 hard-working people while he also throws a burning match on the hopes and dreams of their helpless, defenseless families.”
McGettigan said that when “the hitman returns today, the Children of Ludlow will once again be called upon to withstand the onslaught of a merciless enemy.”
“I can’t roll back the clock to help [the] children who died at the hands of pitiless hitmen a hundred years ago. But, I swear to God, I will not abandon the Children of Ludlow when they face the latest in a long history of hitmen who have terrorized southern Colorado.”
The university responded within hours with a printed letter from Johnna Doyle, deputy general counsel.
“Your email message today with the subject line ‘Children of Ludlow’ is in violation of [school] policy,” Doyle wrote. “The computer center staff in consultation with President [Lesley] Di Mare and the office of general counsel have determined that the email as a violation of this policy is one in which immediate action must be taken to deactivate your account.”
Cora Zaletel, executive director for external affairs, told WND on Tuesday that the professor’s email account was restored and he was teaching his classes as scheduled.
He said, however, “We cannot comment further on any disciplinary proceedings as that is a personnel matter.”
Media reports said operating budgets were being cut to address the university’s projected $3.3 million deficit for the 2014-2015 year. Twenty-two positions are to be eliminated, but all faculty positions will be maintained.
The university said flat enrollment projections and the decision not to raise tuition created the crunch.
McGettigan told the local newspaper, the Chieftain: “As many of us have claimed, there really isn’t a budget crisis.”
DiMare explained that, following the violence at Columbine High School and Arapahoe High School, both in the Denver metropolitan area, safety was a top priority.
However, in a report at “Inside Higher Ed,” a spokesman for the American Association of University Professors defended McGettigan’s statements.
Jonathan Poritz said: “McGettigan’s offending email – makes an analogy between the famous Ludlow massacre of miners and their families in southern Colorado, instigated by mine owners in Denver, and the CSU system’s recent power-play: the system has imposed significant financial cuts, whose specifics were to be decided in a matter of weeks – therefore potentially causing enormous harm to our students, colleagues, and the community – at a time when the system is in fact so flush with funds that a new football stadium is being built in Fort Collins and a new campus is being established in Denver metro south.
“How administration could think that McGettigan’s Ludlow metaphor rises to the level of ‘safety, security, or another matter of an emergency nature’ … is beyond me.”
It’s not the first time name-calling has caused a stir in Colorado’s university community.
In 2007, Ward Churchill, a professor at the University of Colorado, was fired after he compared Sept. 11 victims to Nazi Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann. Churchill later sued, but lost his challenge after the university said its decision was based on other charges that included falsification, plagiarism and misconduct.
Churchill’s essay, titled “Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens,” described the thousands of American victims who died in the World Trade Center inferno as “little Eichmanns” who were perpetuating America’s “mighty engine of profit.” They were destroyed, he added, thanks to the “gallant sacrifices” of “combat teams” that successfully targeted the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon.