CU Panel Recommends Firing Churchill

June 14 2006, 2:09 PM
Six of the nine members on the C.U. panel investigating Ethnic Studies Professor Ward Churchill have recommended he be fired "because of "repeated and deliberate" infractions of scholarship rules." Churchill provided a one word response: "Baloney." He followed that up with a two-word description of his judges: "Kangaroo Court." How so? Here is his argument:
The basic situation here is that there was a call by high officials in the state, notably the governor but hardly restricted to the governor, for my termination clear back last February, whether or not it was legal. They were willing to take the heat and go to court if necessary to stand behind an illegitimate investigation." ....The investigative committee artificially constricted the time and manner of my responses and then disregarded the evidence I was able to present," he said. "It did not measure my work against the accepted practices of my discipline; instead it invented and applied a secret set of standards. Even so, it was unable to provide the required evidence that I violated relevant norms and, in the end, resorted to recommending harsh sanctions because I did not have the 'right attitude.'"
I think Churchill makes some valid points. He has been treated differently because of his "little Eichman" statement which so many, particularly Gov. Owens, found offensive. But he wasn't disciplined on that essay. I think firing Churchill will send a bad signal to academics across the state that if their views stray too far outside the accepted norm that their work will be subjected to microscopic scrutiny and even relatively small violations may cost them their job. Here's what Churchill was found to have done wrong:
Investigators said Churchill misrepresented facts to support some of his arguments. In one case, he said circumstantial evidence indicated Capt. John Smith exposed Indians to smallpox in the 1600s, something the panel said was false. In another, he allegedly plagiarized the work of a Canadian environmental group.
It's not over yet, however. The committee's report will be reviewed by two more officials and then interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano will make the final decision. I hope in making the decision, Chancellor DiStephano considers how much it will cost CU to settle a lawsuit with Churchill if he's fired, the support Churchill enjoys among his students, the effect a firing will have on other professors and C.U.'s reputation, and most of all, the importance of academic freedom.