Butz fireside canceled after students' protest

Published: 1991-02-28

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A fireside featuring controversial electrical engineering Assoc. Prof. Arthur Butz scheduled for last night was canceled because of student outrage and conflicts with the Jewish holiday of Purim.

Butz, a "Holocaust revisionist," denies that the Nazis had a policy of mass killings of Jews during World War II. He was scheduled to speak on "A Revisionist's View of the Holocaust" last night at 600 Lincoln. Ken Zarzeczny, president of 600 Lincoln, said he received about 30 phone calls from students asking that the fireside be canceled or rescheduled. "The intent of the fireside was not in any way to promote anti-Semitism or to endorse revisionist ideas," said Zarzeczny, a McCormick junior. "Rather, it was to provide students with the opportunity to hear what Professor Butz had to say about the topic," he said. "Afterward, students would have been able to express their opinions and to ask questions concerning the presentation."

The fireside will not be rescheduled due to the sensitivity of the topic, Zarzeczny said.

"We'll just make sure that we go with safer-type topics and stay away from anything that might offend people," he said. Butz said he was disappointed that the fireside was canceled and said he would be willing to speak at similar events in the future. "I'm generally open to doing this sort of thing if any dormitory wants to do it," he said. "The people who should be most disappointed are the students who would have attended."

As for the subject matter upsetting people, Butz said, "Very often it's the things that displease people that most often need to be said." Zarzeczny said many of the callers he spoke with were interested in postponing the fireside for a week so they would be able to observe Purim. The holiday, which celebrates the protection of Jews from an ancient massacre, began last night.

Medill freshman Emily Kaiser was one caller. "I personally don't think Butz should be given a forum on this campus," Kaiser said. "I would like to see him get as little attention as possible." But Kaiser said she called the organizers of the fireside to suggest postponement rather than cancellation. "I don't feel like I have any right to ask (the organizers) to cancel this," she said.

CAS senior Joel Tabin called to express similar sentiments. "A lot of people are very interested in it and wanted to see it and obviously couldn't because of the conflict (with Purim)," he said. "If it was going to happen, I would have liked to go to it." Butz deserves to have his opinions heard, Tabin said. "Certainly he has every right in the world to be given a fair hearing," he said.

Rabbi Michael Balinsky, director of the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation, said he was glad to hear the fireside had been canceled. "What people don't realize about Butz is to know who his supporters are," Balinsky said. "It's not very different than sponsoring a speaker for the Ku Klux Klan."

However, the fireside organizers should not be held responsible for scheduling Butz to speak, he said. Balinsky said he called the organizers to express his concern with sponsoring Butz's fireside and to inform them of what he thought Butz stood for.

"No one was impugning their initial motives," Balinsky said. "Butz is free to say what he wants, but the university and student groups don't have to sponsor a forum for an anti-Semite."

The Daily Northwestern, Thursday, February 28, 1991

Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): Kevin F. Sherry
Title: Butz fireside canceled after students' protest
Sources: The Daily Northwestern, February 28, 1991. Reproduced in Smith's Report, no. 4, p. 3.
Published: 1991-02-28
First posted on CODOH: Sept. 15, 2000, 7 p.m.
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