Wednesday, May 02, 2001

NKU professor issues apology

He was misunderstood, he says

By Karen Samples
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        An associate professor at Northern Kentucky University apologized Tuesday for a statement that appeared to call for violence against a police officer.

        Clinton Hewan, a tenured political science teacher at NKU, insisted he was only posing a hypothetical, worst-case scenario at a public forum on race relations two weeks ago.

        But the campus newspaper reported his comments in a different light, he said. In a statement to be distributed to all faculty and students, Dr. Hewan acknowledged that others may have misunderstood his meaning.

        After meeting with colleagues and the chairwoman of his department, Dr. Hewan said he decided to issue the statement “so people would know what really transpired.”

        At the forum on race, Dr. Hewan and others discussed the shooting death of Timothy Thomas, a 19-year-old African-American, at the hands of a white Cincinnati police officer.

        According to an article in The Northerner, Dr. Hewan said, “I do not advocate any violence as an initiate. But in the case of willful murder, the family should go out and get that policeman.”

        He was quoted as saying Mr. Thomas' family should “quietly stalk that SOB and take him out.”

        In Tuesday's statement, Dr. Hewan wrote: “I wish to state unequivocally that in no way were my comments intended to advocate assaulting police officers.”

        Rather, he was trying to make the point that society sometimes listens only to violence, but that such violence is not the way to go, he said.

        The statement continued:

        “In view of developments over the past several days, and in conversations with a number of individuals, I now realize that the tone and tenor of my comments conveyed an impression that I did not intend. For this I apologize to students, faculty, the university and the larger community. I do so fully convinced that the message I was trying — and intending to convey — is one that our entire society and the world needs to hear and understand.”

        Dr. Hewan, an African-American who lives in Northern Kentucky, said he has received racist letters since the controversy became public. His wife and daughter are worried for his safety, he said.

        NKU President James Votruba, who had issued a stinging rebuke of Dr. Hewan's quotes in the Northerner, had no comment Tuesday on the statement, a spokesman said. Dr. Votruba is still investigating what transpired at the forum and hopes to announce a resolution within a few days, spokesman Rick Meyers said.


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