A peace studies professor said Friday he authorized a mass e-mail sent across the University of Missouri's flagship campus promoting antiwar activities, including skipping classes in protest if the U.S. attacks Iraq.
The e-mail stirred controversy because it was first sent - to thousands of students and faculty members at the Columbia campus - without the usual signature of a sponsoring campus organization.
"People perceived the university was encouraging students and faculty to take off work and encourage participation in peace vigils, when in fact it was from the sponsoring organization that unfortunately had its name left off the first time," said Mary Jo Banken, a spokeswoman for the Columbia campus.
"We have gotten calls and people are upset," she said.
Banken said the lack of identification of a sponsor was a mistake and unintentional.
A replacement e-mail sent Thursday clarified that the message - the first item in an electronic calendar of upcoming events - was sponsored by the university's Department of Peace Studies.
The e-mail noted three types of weekly antiwar demonstrations that happen in Columbia. It concluded: "Should war be launched against Iraq, peace advocates are encouraged to refrain from their usual activities the day after (including work, classes, shopping), and join in visible demonstrations."
John Galliher, a sociology professor who directs the peace studies program, said Friday the message was appropriate to send via the public university's mass e-mail system because the program "is charged with making peace."
Galliher said he authorized the mass e-mail because, "I thought it was very much in the interest of peacemakers to know there is going to be a nationwide effort to have people to change their daily schedule in some way if we start a full-scale war on Iraq."
Asked whether the message's intent was to encourage participation in demonstrations including skipping class and work, Galliher replied: "Absolutely. I don't think there is any doubt about it encouraging participation."
Banken, when asked how the university justified distributing a message encouraging students and teachers to skip classes, said the e-mail was a matter of "the free exchange of ideas."
"The University of Missouri is a public institution. We are a forum for the exchange of ideas and differing points of view. It wouldn't be beyond the realm of possibility that we would also be advertising a pro-war rally," Banken said.
Galliher said he wouldn't encourage a student to skip a final exam nor would he miss giving a final, even if war started a day earlier.
"But if it's a peace studies class, that might be the assignment for the day - go out and observe the vigils and then write an essay," said Galliher, who teaches a peace studies writing course that he said doesn't have tests.
The university's followup e-mail said university employees "who participate in any such forums during business hours will be required to take leave according to University policy. Faculty have responsibility to determine how any absences are handled in their classes."
The university's peace studies program has had a campus presence since 1970. About 300 students a year enroll in its classes.
The program's Web site says its students "develop an awareness that humanity can and must find alternative means to resolve conflict - means that do not include war or violence."
It goes on to say, "MU contributes to the understanding of alternatives to war and violence through peace education, research, planning and action, leading students to methods to a stable, just peace that will be an intermission between wars."
Galliher said the $150 university fee for sending the mass e-mail was paid with private donations to a peace studies fund that Banken said has a balance of about $30,000.
Banken said public funds pay a $110,748 salary for Galliher, a 36-year tenured veteran of the university, plus $11,440 for a part-time secretary and $2,702 for equipment and supplies for the Peace Studies program.