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Archive for Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Colorado professor subject of threats after controversy

Metropolitan Denver college responds with silence, lawyer says

March 31, 2004

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— A Metropolitan State College of Denver political science professor, at the center of a dispute over academic freedom, says she has received death threats and hate e-mail in the wake of a recent debate over an academic bill of rights.

Professor Oneida Meranto said she had received a slew of hate e-mail and threats since December that led her to worry about her personal safety.

One of the e-mails read: " ... blow her (obscenity) brains out ... let's see who has the stomach for a blood bath."

Meranto and her lawyer, J. Triplett MacIntosh, said they turned over the threats to the FBI this month after getting what they considered an inadequate response from Metro officials to her plea for more security.

A spokeswoman for the Denver FBI office declined to discuss specifics of the case, but acknowledged it was under investigation.

Meranto, a Metro professor since 1993, became embroiled in a controversy late last year with student members of the Auraria College Republicans. Meranto and her lawyer said they did not know the source of the threats and emphasized they were not accusing any of the students.

During a legislative hearing in December, George Culpepper, chairman of the College Republicans, described how he asked to be removed from Meranto's class because of what he perceived to be a political bias against conservative students.

Meranto was not at the hearing concerning an academic bill of rights. But in response to Culpepper's public testimony, she was quoted in a newspaper story as saying that Culpepper dropped her course because he had not been doing the work and was going to flunk.

That led Culpepper to file a complaint with Metro officials, alleging that Meranto violated his privacy rights. That case is pending.

Culpepper said he was disturbed to hear about the death threats directed at his former teacher.

"I do not condone anybody sending anyone death threats," he said. "She does not have to fear for her safety on this campus because I'd be the first to stand up and defend her."

Meranto and MacIntosh asked Metro officials to issue a statement calling the threats unacceptable, but the school declined.

Metro spokeswoman Cathy Lucas said Monday that college officials decided not to issue a statement because the e-mails appeared to originate from off-campus. Lucas said campus police have offered to escort Meranto from her classroom to the parking lot.

MacIntosh said the college's response was "a resounding silence."

Meranto wept Friday as she described how the controversy had changed her teaching style and led her to contemplate a career change.

"I feel my character has been impugned," she said.

MacIntosh said whoever made the threats went too far.

"Robust political debate is one thing," he said. "Death threats are another."

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