Phi Beta Cons

“Yet Another Conflict”

That’s what the Associated Press is calling Hamilton College’s predicament over the Alexander Hamilton Center, which has often been discussed here. The article provides a history lesson:
In 2004, former Weather Underground radical Susan Rosenberg — imprisoned for 16 years for an armored car robbery that left a guard and two police officers dead — was hired to teach a monthlong writing seminar but the school canceled her appearance after receiving widespread criticism and hearing from alums who threatened to take back hundreds of thousands of dollars in pledges.
In 2005, Hamilton was prepared to host a little-known University of Colorado professor, Ward Churchill, who created a nationwide firestorm when it was revealed he had written an essay referring to 9/11 victims as “little Eichmanns,” a reference to Nazi Adolf Eichmann. His appearance was ultimately canceled by the school because of death threats against college officials and Churchill.
Churchill and Rosenberg were invited to campus by the Kirkland Project for the Study of Gender, Society and Culture. In the wake of the scandals, the faculty member who directed the program resigned and the school reformed the program as the Diversity and Social Justice Program.
One of the leading critics of the Kirkland Project was history professor Robert Paquette, one of the founders of the Alexander Hamilton Center.
Paquette said the governance issue was a “red herring” raised by faculty members seeking a system “that would create a center they could subvert.”
The center was to have an independent, self-perpetuating board on which only one seat was assured to go to a Hamilton faculty member. As a result, many faculty members complained that the center would have more independence from the rest of the college than any other academic unit, said Dean of Faculty Joseph Urgo.
Paquette said the center “did not seek to alter the curriculum of the college in any way, to create new courses arbitrarily, or new faculty positions.
“We just wanted to add another voice to the campus discussion,” he said.
The whole piece is worth a read — but one thing should be added to it. One of the most heartening developments to come out of the turmoil of the past few years has been the work of Hamilton College Alumni for Governance Reform, a group of concerned alums that is fielding petition candidates for the Board of Trustees. One need only survey the wreckage of what was to be the Alexander Hamilton Center to see that the college named for our first Treasury Secretary is in great need of governance reform.
This weekend, the AP will educate many about the problem at Hamilton — and HCAGR has the solution.