The decision by the University of Denver to honor former President George W. Bush at a DU fundraiser has been controversial for months. Now, with Bush scheduled to speak at downtown Denver event this evening, a group of concerned students and alumni, among others, are planning a protest and press conference in advance of the get-together, with one organizer expressing fears that the money collected will be used to promote an agenda that flies in the face of the university's values.
"The people who'll be attending this event are presumably people who support Bush," says Sara Fitouri of the Colorado Student Power Alliance, "and that will shape any future ways those funds are used."
In the beginning, as we've reported, Bush was to be given an award for "Improving the Human Condition" under the auspices of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. After this announcement, Christopher Hill, Korbel's dean, immediately became the target of intense criticism symbolized by a Change.org petition signed by more than 1,600 people and a letter from faculty members unhappy with the honor.
According to Fitouri, the letter was endorsed by two-thirds of Korbel's faculty members, representing "a diverse spectrum of academic specialties and political/social views. In particular, it's significant that all of the senior international security/counter-terrorism faculty members signed the letter, which counters the perception among some that the opposition is coming only from human rights activists and so-called 'leftists.'"
The letter appears below in its entirety, but here's an excerpt:
When we first learned of the award to the former President, "for improving the human condition," we were shocked, disappointed, and embarrassed in light of his administration's decisions to repudiate the US' responsibilities as a signatory of the UN's Convention against Torture by authorizing the use of waterboarding of prisoners. President Bush's culpability is a matter of public evidence and personal admission.
In an apparent effort to smooth ruffled feathers, the name of the award being given to Bush was changed from "Improving the Human Condition" to "Global Service." But critics such as Fitouri weren't placated -- hence, today's event, whose Facebook page features the following image....
...and this text:
CALL TO ACTION!!!!
Join us on Monday, Sept. 9 at 4:45 p.m. in front of the Hyatt Regency Denver at the Colorado Convention Center (650 15th St) to protest this terrible decision and stand in solidarity with Korbel folks whose academic integrity will be affected by it. We will begin the protest around 4:45 p.m. and plan to have a press conference around 5:15 p.m., so be sure to get there by then (as close as you can).
Another on-campus action is also planned; Fitouri says it's being kept quiet so that DU representatives can't prepare for it in advance. In addition, the alliance is collecting online nominations for people who truly should be honored for their humanitarianism and global service.
"We're asking people to nominate local heroes or global political figures who are more deserving," she notes. "We're going to award certificates as a way of saying, 'We're sorry our school didn't think you were worthy of an award, but the students, faculty and community recognize what you've done.'"
Here's the aforementioned faculty letter.
More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "DU should give George W. Bush the Denver Boone Award, not the humanitarian award."
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