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Saturday, December 04, 2010 

Tom Flanagan Damaged U of C's Reputation - Calgary Herald

... From the Calgary Herald ...

The following is an open letter to University of Calgary President Elizabeth Cannon by alumni and students of U of C.

On Nov. 30, U of C political science Prof. Tom Flanagan advocated for the political murder of Julian Assange, the founder of the international nonprofit media organization WikiLeaks.

Speaking on a national CBC broadcast of Power & Politics with Evan Solomon, Flanagan said: "I think that Assange should be assassinated, actually. I think that Obama should put on a contract and maybe use a drone or something."

When Solomon interrupted saying, "Tom, that's pretty harsh stuff," Flanagan replied, "Well, I'm feeling very manly today."

He ended the segment with, "I wouldn't feel unhappy if Assange disappeared."

Flanagan has since apologized for his comments, telling CBC News: "I regret that I made a glib comment about a serious issue."

He later added: "I am glad that everyone is condemning it, and I condemn it also."

His prompt apology is most certainly welcome, but unfortunately for the U of C's reputation, the damage has been done. A number of the most prominent English-language news sources in the world including The Telegraph, the Nation, the Jerusalem Post, National Public Radio (NPR) and the Guardian carried Flanagan's remarks, along with major Canadian news outlets and countless blogs.

Flanagan's initial remarks remain relevant to the U of C community because although debate and even harsh disagreement about the WikiLeaks release are not only inevitable, but perfectly natural for an open and democratic society like Canada's, we must draw a line at advocating for political murder, something that Flanagan failed to do.

Better than most, a professor of political science should understand that academic freedom is not possible without political freedom, and that political freedom cannot survive in a climate where journalists and opponents of a ruling regime hear public intellectuals advocate for their assassination on a news program.

If this were a Russian, Chinese or Iranian intellectual calling for the murder of a regime opponent, Canadians would be appalled. Considering Canada's proud tradition of political freedom, it is all the more offensive to hear an active member of the U of C faculty and the former chief of staff and campaign manager for the sitting Canadian prime minister do the same.

The University of Calgary should distance itself publicly from Flanagan's initial remarks, condemn him in the harshest possible terms, and censure him for abusing the good name of the university and for the damage this has done to the reputation of not only the school, but of the 150,000 alumni and the degrees they hold.

This should be done peacefully. After all, even though thousands of U of C students, staff and faculty have disagreed with Flanagan's opinions over the years, no one has publicly called for him to be murdered, even in jest.

Kris Kotarski, BA History & International Relations '04, MSS Military and Strategic Studies '09; Maria Cristina Bacalso, BA Political Science '08; Chris Beauchamp, BA Political Science '08; Richard Bergen, BA Economics '04; Darcy Ippolito, BSc Geography '06; Sara Klimes, BA Law & Society '06; Nicole Kobie, BA Political Science '04; Jeff Kubik, BA Communications '05; Kristian Leach, BA English '06; Lindsay Luhnau, BA Political Science '04; Dan Pagan, BA Greek & Roman Studies '11, BA Law & Society '11; Andrew D.F. Ross, BA Philosophy '04; Michael Soron, BA Political Science '07.
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