The trouble began for the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., when City Pages, the Minneapolis-St. Paul alternative weekly, reported Oct. 3 that the diocesan-owned Catholic university had refused to host Nobel Peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu because his criticisms of Israeli policy toward Palestinians offended some members of the Jewish community.
News of the decision precipitated a weeklong outpouring of criticism that began with faculty and students on the campus, including a faculty petition drive, and quickly spread to national email campaigns and condemnatory editorials and blog postings. It all culminated in a reversal of the decision by university president Fr. Dennis Dease, who wrote in an Oct. 10 letter to university faculty, students and staff that he had "made the wrong decision earlier this year not to invite the archbishop. Although well-intentioned, I did not have all of the facts and points of view, but now I do."
According to City Pages, Jim Winterer, a spokesman for the university, said the outcry was impossible to ignore. "Fr. Dease was in touch with a lot more people this time than he was the first time around," said a story posted on the paper's Web site Oct. 10. "Calls were coming in from around the world."
The controversy reflects the urgent need for an open debate on U.S.-Israeli foreign policy, said Cris Toffolo, an assistant professor of political science and former head of the Justice and Peace Studies program who lost her job as the program's leader after she notified Tutu of the university's cancellation. "The treatment of Tutu is not an isolated case," …