[Marxism] Ward Churchill update
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Mar 28 07:54:41 MST 2005
Churchill Wars Continue
Both Ward Churchill and one of his legislative critics compared the
University of Colorado to an asylum this weekend showing that the debate
over the controversial professor has not been put to rest by a university
review released Thursday.
Churchill says that the new investigation requested by the review this
time an inquiry into whether he engaged in plagiarism and other forms of
research misconduct is unfair. In a speech in San Francisco Friday night,
he said that the new investigation at Colorado, which will examine among
other things his claims of being an American Indian, was befitting to a
lunatic asylum, and he vowed not to cooperate with the investigation,
according to a report in The Rocky Mountain News.
Meanwhile, some Colorado officials who have been demanding that Churchill
be fired complained that the new investigation was biased in Churchills
favor because many professors who will consider the charges have said that
they opposed taking action against Churchill because of his essays. The
Denver Post reported that 3 of the 12 members of the faculty committee that
reviews misconduct allegations have publicly stated that they did not think
Churchill should be fired for his essay about September 11.
That prompted State Rep. Ted Harvey, a Republican, to tell the newspaper:
The patients are in charge of the asylum.
University officials defended the investigation, noting that the professors
who had come to Churchills defense did so on First Amendment grounds, and
that none of the committee members had taken a stand on the research
misconduct charges Churchill faces. Indeed, if there is a foregone
conclusion among many in Colorado about the new investigation, it may be
the view of politicians that the inquiry needs to lead to Churchills
Churchill and his writings have been under scrutiny since January, when he
was scheduled to speak at Hamilton College. Critics there questioned the
appropriateness of a scholar whose essay on 9/11 said that many of those
killed in the World Trade Center were little Eichmanns. Hamilton
eventually called off the talk, citing security issues, and Churchill
issued a statement saying that his ideas were being distorted.
As the controversy over Churchills 9/11 comments grew, many Colorado
politicians demanded that the university fire him from his tenured position
in the ethnic studies department of its Boulder campus. Instead, the
university created the review panel that reported on Thursday. That panel
said that Churchills statements about September 11, however offensive to
many, were protected by his First Amendment rights, and that he could not
be fired for them.
However, the panel also noted that it has received several allegations of
plagiarism and research misconduct against Churchill, and that it would
refer those charges to a faculty committee on misconduct that could
recommend that Churchill be dismissed.
The review panels approach won praise from many experts on academic
freedom even some who opposed the creation of the panel for strongly
making the case that professors at public colleges cannot be fired for
taking unpopular public stands.
As for Churchill, the focus of his arguments since the panel released its
findings has been that since the review panel should never have been
created, all of its recommendations including that he be investigated for
research misconduct are tainted.
In an e-mail interview on Friday, Churchills lawyer, David Lane, said that
the panel had never attempted to talk to Churchill, and that this failure
undercut the entire process.
The university understood that they could not fire him for his free
speech. By the same token, they knew that if they contacted Professor
Churchill, he would have been able to refute the remaining allegations,
Lane said. But, he added, the university could not do this because
politically, the university cannot afford to have the inquiry ended at
this juncture, haven taken no punitive actions.
Some of the faculty members nationwide who have been backing Churchill also
reject the legitimacy of the Colorado investigation. Ruth Y. Hsu, associate
professor of English at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, helped organize
a petition drive on Churchills behalf, and is now inviting academics who
feel that they have been punished for their political stands, post-9/11, to
contact her. She called the new investigation at Colorado the latest phase
in the ongoing witch hunt of Professor Churchill.
Some experts on academic freedom had more praise for the Colorado review.
Robert M. ONeil, director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the
Protection of Free Expression, at the University of Virginia, said that he
was pleasantly surprised by the reviews conclusion that Churchill could
not be fired for the things he wrote and said.
ONeil said that even though the original essay should not have been
investigated as possible grounds for dismissal, he was not bothered by the
way the review has led to the investigation of Churchills scholarship.
ONeil said that it was clear that some of the allegations about Churchill
predate the controversy over his 9/11 essay, so these allegations cannot be
viewed simply as an outgrowth of the public furor of the last two months.
This is a serious question of plagiarism and it needs to be investigated
thoroughly and carefully, he said.
ONeil, who formerly was head of the academic freedom committee of the
American Association of University Professors, said that he has reviewed
the procedures used by Colorado to review alleged research misconduct. And
he said that the rules that will be used by a faculty committee at Colorado
conform with AAUP guidelines on due process.
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education also reviewed the
Colorado report on Friday and issued an analysis of it. The analysis agreed
with the review that plagiarism charges deserve investigation and that
controversial speech should not lead to professors being fired. But the
FIRE analysis was tougher on Colorado for undertaking the investigation in
the way it did.
At the time that the Board of Regents began its investigation, it was
plain that none of Churchills controversial statements including his
little Eichmanns comment were outside the bounds of protected speech.
An investigation of protected speech is itself improper and has a
chilling effect on the free exchange of ideas. It is also improper to use
clearly protected though controversial expression as a pretext to begin
scouring the public record in hopes of finding examples of public
statements that do not enjoy full First Amendment protection, the analysis
Many academics have found the entire Churchill controversy distasteful,
saying that it has reinforced unfair views held by many in the public that
professors are unpatriotic, off-the-charts leftists. But (with thanks to
Cliopatria for the tip), these academics may take comfort in the analysis
of Chris Bray in Histori-blogography:
He notes that if Churchill eventually loses his job, it will be because
professors lodged plagiarism charges against him and a university is taking
those charges seriously enough to investigate. Bray writes that theres no
better way to refute the charges of conservative critics that higher
education is one big academic monculture, where the views of Ward
Churchills go unchallenged.
If a bunch of professors are trying to get another professor fired as a
liar and a lousy researcher, well that just proves that all these people
think alike, doesnt it? I mean, they all totally stand up for each other,
right? Bray wrote.
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