In the Oct. 2 issue of The Northern Light, an article appeared regarding a group of petitioners who disagreed with a letter University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton wrote to the University of Alaska community. Northern Light was unable to make contact with Hamilton prior to the paper's release. Below, Hamilton responds to questions about this topic.
Northern Light: What is your response to recent controversy surrounding your letter to the university community?
Pres. Hamilton: The controversy doesn't bother me. That's what universities do – discuss controversy.
NL: Were you speaking to the university or on behalf of the university?
H: Actually, neither. The document was an editorial for The Anchorage Daily News. As I shared it early on the morning of [Sept. 11], a staff member asked if it could be sent to folks in the university. I agreed. In that sense it became TO the university. I believe the document served an important purpose early in the unfolding events in that it answered the biggest questions of the moment: What does this mean? What might we expect to happen next?
NL: Would you be willing to talk with and/ or meet the students and faculty who are in disagreement with you? Why or why not?
H: Of course. We will probably have to establish what we are in disagreement about. If they are in disagreement with what I expected to happen, we have a pretty easily graded document. I said what I thought the significance was and what might happen as a result. We may judge that from unfolding events. If we are going to debate the use of violence in the resolution of world affairs, that would be of interest. I will insist that we be civil.
NL: Do you support and/ or advocate non-violent means of retaliation?
H: I don't want to be difficult, but I have made clear in several subsequent presentations that retaliation is the wrong objective. We do not want to get adept at striking back. We ought to seek deterrence, that is, create the environment wherein no one strikes us in the first place. I fully understand that retaliation can play a large role in the establishment of deterrence. As to use of violent or non-violent measures, I don't think we should rule out either.
NL: Comment on what you think is the role of a university president in times of crisis.
H: It is true the president of a university has got to be a little careful. The role will depend upon both the nature of the event and the nature and experience of the president.”
NL: What is your take on the freedom of speech?
H: You can't go anywhere if you don't have the ability to exchange opinions. I think a university needs to be a place where we can express opinions. Speakers should be informed and rational and not make personal attacks, because it doesn't do much for the discovery of knowledge. That is covered [under the First Amendment] too, though.
Student petitioners presented UAA Chancellor Lee Gorsuch with hundreds of signed petitions at the teach-in on Oct. 11. Hamilton, whose office is in Fairbanks, has made no indication that he will meet with petitioners to talk about this issue. Teach-ins that address the repercussions of the events on Sept. 11 are still taking place. An all-day teach-in discussing various subjects from Islam to terrorism will be held Oct. 27 at the Campus Center.