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Professor calls for 'million more Mogadishus'

Controversial comments at antiwar teach-in

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Columbia University said an assistant professor who made statements indicating he wanted to see U.S. soldiers killed, evidently to boost antiwar sentiment, was "exercising his right to free speech" and did not represent the university.

Assistant anthropology professor Nicholas De Genova said at an antiwar teach-in Wednesday night that he would like to see "a million more Mogadishus," according to one of the event's organizers.

He was referring to the Somali capital where 18 American soldiers were killed in 1993. The incident, the focus of the book and movie "Black Hawk Down," prompted the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

De Genova also said that the American flag stands for imperialism and that it is impossible to be a patriotic American without also being an imperialist.

The university issued a statement saying De Genova "was speaking as an individual at a teach-in. He was exercising his right to free speech. His statement does not in any way represent the views of Columbia University."

Eric Foner, a history professor at Columbia who helped organize the teach-in, said Genova's statements were "reprehensible" and represented neither the views of the event's organizers nor the antiwar movement as a whole.

Freshman Philip Cartelli, one of the students who attended the teach-in, said there were small cheers after some of De Genova's controversial remarks. But he added that about half of the students "were rolling their eyes."

About 3,000 students, faculty and community members passed through the university's Low Library rotunda to hear roughly 30 professors speak there during the six-hour teach-in, Foner said.

The next day, Cartelli and a group of approximately students 50 students tried to deliver a letter to Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia's president, asking him to issue an official statement opposing the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

The students at that time were denied access to the Low Library building, which houses the offices of the president, but were permitted to later meet with Robert Kasdin, senior vice president at the university.

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