St. Thomas president invites Desmond Tutu to speak

In a letter addressed earlier today to students, faculty, and staff, University of St. Thomas President Dennis Dease admitted he had “made the wrong decision” in not inviting Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“Although well-intentioned, I did not have all of the facts and points of view, but now I do,” he wrote. “PeaceJam International may well choose to keep the alternative arrangements that it has made for its April 2008 conference, but I want the organization and Archbishop Tutu to know that we would be honored to hold the conference at St. Thomas. In any event, St. Thomas will extend an invitation to Archbishop Tutu to participate in a forum to foster constructive dialogue on the issues that have been raised.”

St. Thomas administrators received a barrage of indignant emails and phone calls after we broke the story that university of brass had opted out of hosting the Nobel Laureate amid concerns that his critical stance regarding Israeli policy might offend the local Jewish community. Julie Swiler of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas told St. Thomas officials that Tutu’s words during a 2002 speech were especially controversial and hurtful. Now she has agreed to co-sponsor the forum, should Tutu accept the offer.

Jim Winterer, a spokesman for the university, said the outcry was too ubiquitous to ignore.

“Father Dease was in touch with a lot more people this time than he was the first time around,” he says wryly. “Calls were coming in from around the world.”

Metropolitan State University, in conjunction with PeaceJam International, booked Tutu for an April appearance after St. Thomas turned him down. That arrangement still stands.

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