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I’ve gotten reports from a large number of people who have been expressing their displeasure with a Bucknell administrator who called three students into her office to discuss the inappropriateness of the phrase “hunting terrorists.” Some of these people have e-mailed various school administrators, and the university’s responses are beginning to trickle in. One reader forwarded me a response from Bucknell’s Associate Director of Communication, Kathryn Kopchik. According to Ms. Kopchik:
The Executive Assistant to the President had a casual conversation on a variety of subjects related to issues of common concern with representatives of the Bucknell University Conservatives Club, including the administration’s desire to procure a full range of speakers and views to campus. One small segment of that conversation has been isolated and exaggerated by one of the participants.
Ms. Kopchik fails to note that this “one small segment” of a larger conversation was the very reason that the students were called into the meeting in the first place. Bucknell’s stance appears to be that the students are mischaracterizing the meeting with Ms. Owens. Unfortunately for Bucknell, there is e-mail evidence—from President Brian C. Mitchell himself—proving that the sole purpose of the meeting was exactly as the students described:
From: Brian Mitchell
Date: August 29, 2005 8:36:15 PM EDT
To: Chris Imbriano
Cc: Kathleen Owens
Subject: Re: Conservatives Sept. Speaker
First, I am disappointed that the College Democrats did not wish to co-sponsor his event, assuming that it was non-partisan, as you have certainly inferred it was to me. At any rate, I hope so. I will ask them why because I believe that it was a missed opportunity.
Second, I am going to decline on the public sponsorship on this one. I had planned to offer assistance but saw some fairly unfortunate language describing the event over the e-mail. Dr. Kathy Owens will be writing or speaking to Matt about this issue. To prevent this from happening again (much like the issue with Dominic, who handled it very gracefully last year), I will need some assurances on the public relations associated with the speaker. Once we get this kink worked out, you should continue to feel free to seek reasonable support from my office.
Brian C. Mitchell
(Portion underlined by me.)
This e-mail establishes that President Mitchell arranged the meeting between Kathy Owens and the students due to a problem with the language in the e-mail promoting the event. Now, here’s the language used in that e-mail:
Date: Mon, 29 Aug 2005 00:04:14 -0400
To: “Bucknell Faculty Staff and Students”
From: Matt Gabler
Subject: [CAMPUS:8789] The Real Story from the Frontlines
Where were you during the months following September 11?
Major John Krenson was hunting terrorists.
The Real Story from the Frontlines: Major John Krenson details his experiences as the Chief Intelligence Liaison Officer between the US Coalition and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Gardner lecture Hall (Dana Engineering)
What’s so offensive about that? Well, when the students met with Kathy Owens, after she greeted the students and dispensed with the formalities of asking them how they were doing, all three students say she held up the e-mail and said, “We have a problem here.” Ms. Owens then indicated the language “hunting terrorists” was the problem. The fact that this was the very first order of business discussed in the meeting backs up the students’ account, and it is entirely consistent with President Mitchell’s e-mail.
The only reason these students were called into the meeting was because the university objected to the phrase “hunting terrorists.” The university objected so strongly that the President’s Office yanked support for the event. And as difficult as it may be to believe that those two words would offend somebody, there is absolutely nothing else in the e-mail that could possibly be the culprit, is there? I doubt this controversy erupted due to the inconsistent capitalization of “Gardner lecture Hall.”
I have been in touch with Ms. Owens on several occasions and repeatedly asked her to give her side of the story. She declined to do so. I also gave her three opportunities to deny the account given by the students. Again, she declined to do so, and replied, “Although I appreciate your interest, in my interpretation that conversation was innocuous and cordial. I believe President Mitchell’s administration has been marked by attention to all points of view and political speech.” After point, she refused to respond to any further queries.
Still, even without Ms. Owens’ testimony, it is quite clear why these three students were dragged into this meeting. President Mitchell’s e-mail proves it. The three students, all of whom I spoke with independently, all give the exact same account of the meeting. And after trying to confirm these facts three times with Kathy Owens, she did not deny them once.
Now Bucknell is attempting to smear three of its students by implying that they’re lying. My alma mater should be ashamed of itself.
Recently, an alumnus suggested that I give President Mitchell the benefit of the doubt. I would still like to, but it just got a lot harder to do.