February 26, 2008

Ward Churchill Denies He Pulled Out Of Debate With Victor Davis Hanson

Based on comments at Victor Davis Hanson's own site, PirateBallerina highlighted the recent cancellation of an expected April 2 showdown between Ward Churchill and Hanson at CU. Hanson has published this apology:
April 2, 2008: Boulder, Colorado

Debate has been canceled at this time and we are working on an upcoming debate. Our apologies to Ward Churchill for misstating the reasons earlier.
In addition, "Charley Arthur" at the pro-Churchill blog Tryworks bolsters the claim (substantiated and footnoted--just kidding) that it was not, in fact, Churchill who pulled out unexpectedly, but that the event itself was cancelled by the third party sponsor--the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (from an email to Churchill):
While we now have everything from Kifer’s original overture to Churchill on the idea of debating Hanson, to their discussion(s) of the topic to be debated, to the contractual arrangements involved, the following e-mail, received by the Good Prof last Thursday, shows very clearly that the debate was NOT cancelled because Churchill “pulled out” (”unexpectedly,” or otherwise).

What follows is Mr. Kifer’s message, in full:
Dear Ward,

I am writing to regretfully inform you that we have had to cancel the debate for April 2, 2008 at UC Boulder. This is due largely to matters outside our control. I am grateful for your willingness to participate in the program and I hope that we can find another forum that would be more suitable for this dialogue.

Thank you again and I will be in touch with future prospects as they become available.

Most sincerely,

Chad G. Kifer
Director of Program Advancement and Collegiate Debates
Intercollegiate Studies Institute
The speculation over at Tryworks is that either ISI backed out (probable), Hanson himself chickened out (unlikely), or that a secret conservative cabal of outgoing CU President Hank Brown, President-elect Bruce Benson, and others determined that a VDH-WC debate wouldn't play well (?, also unlikely). There is also mention of Churchill pressing his contractual rights, and a potential lawsuit.

Having had some experience with bringing out high-profile speakers to CU Boulder as an undergraduate, I can say that coordinating a debate is a logistical nightmare. Having multiple parties involved--VDH and Churchill, ISI, and CU (at a minimum)--only makes the situation more complicated and more fragile. The likelihood for miscommunication rises, and could give the impression (in this case, a false one) that one party "unexpectedly pulled out", when in fact no such thing happened.

ISI's still wants to move forward and "find another forum that would be more suitable for this dialogue"--which could mean that there was a problem with the venue, though not because of Churchill since he has not been banned from campus (he had a "free" class there tonight). We hope to see this debate at some point, in a neutral site where Churchill's goons aren't playing enforcement.

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