31 August 2007


They say three strikes and you're out. In the case of the University of Colorado, in my hometown of Boulder, three strikes and you're outed. In three recent incidents (though one of them long-brewing), our supposed bastion of education has proved itself intolerant to, of all things, education. Not to mention free speech.

First up was a professor of previous little note, who had the utter gall to point out that there may have been actual reasons that Middle Easterners would hijack airplanes and run them into American buildings. Ward Churchill, who I do think is a sort of pompous windbag (never a disqualification for a university professor before), made the mistake of publicly disagreeing with Americans who prefer to believe all those criminals were simply crazy people out of their minds with dreams of virgins waiting on the other side of the burning buildings. For this the university bent over backwards to find reasons Churchill should be fired, while denying his perhaps intemperate remarks had nothing to do with their sudden investigation.

Next, earlier this week a mentally ill man attacked a student on campus, injuring him slightly. The university response was to round up every employee with a mental health history and suspend them as prospective threats. I'm sure there must have been a young black student arrested sometime in the past few months, for something. I'm surprised the university lets even one black man or woman walk around campus unrestrained. The same goes for the law students there.

Finally, an a capella group trying to recruit fresh voices now finds itself one voice short. An audition questionnaire jokingly referenced the poor student who suffered the slight injury just mentioned. The offending question asked how prospective basso profundos felt about the incident, and included as one of the scripted choices: "Mad someone got that guy before you did." The resulting uproar, much greater than the one heard after the university turned on a vulnerable group of employees who did nothing but their jobs, ended with the firing of the singer who wrote the silly question.

The name of the a capella group? The CU Buffoons, not to be confused with the folks who fired Ward Churchill and cleared the campus of employees tainted by mental illness. (Does anybody still work there?) The surprising thing to take from all this, I suppose, is that these guys really ARE buffoons, only some of whom can actually carry a tune.

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