Colorado University professor Ward Churchill was fired in 2007 for plagiarism and “other research misconduct allegations.” Of course, Churchill took it to the courts claiming wrongful termination.
In April a jury ruled that Churchill’s firing was “politically motivated.” Yesterday District Court Judge Larry J. Naves said that Colorado University (CU) does not have to rehire Ward Churchill, nor do they have to pay him monetary damages.
While there is little doubt that Churchill will appeal, Ross Kaminsky writing for Human Events says that the Judge Naves’ ruling doesn’t “overrule” but it “vacates” the April ruling and is “all but bullet-proof.”
Churchill was a former Ethnic Studies professor. In charging research misconduct, the University upheld Churchill’s First and Fourteenth Amendment guaranteeing free speech, so the publishing of the essays was not a part of the charges “and played absolutely no role in its deliberations.”
Churchill, a professor of Ethnic Studies, accused the University of discrimination “due in part to his controversial left-wing views.” In defense the University pointed out that Churchill has received public attention due to his outspoken controversial statements, and thus the “serious claims of academic misconduct have been lodged and they require full investigation,” in contrast to another academics publications that may garner no interest. They offered this analogy:
A motorist who is stopped and ticketed for speeding because the police officer was offended by the contents of her bumper sticker, and who otherwise would have been sent away with a warning, is still guilty of speeding, even if the officer’s motive for punishing the speeder was the offense taken to the speeder’s exercise of her right to free speech.
It is clear that the University’s focus is not free speech but, maybe, outlandish and unfounded claims made in Churchill’s published work. It gets complicated but it if you care to read it you will be able to understand it. Find in the link below to Ross Kamisky.
Kaminsky reports that Colorado University’s former president, Hank Brown, said that public support was “absolutely critical in keeping the university from caving in. ” I found it shocking that a University won on a point that would keep a tenured professor out of the classroom, because you know how difficult it is to keep an academic from abusing a classroom. The good people of Colorado offered their support and gave the University the cover and courage to do what was right.
Beyond the great news that a violence-promoting fraud will no longer be warping the minds of University of Colorado students, this episode has had an important longer-term positive impact: a much-needed overhaul of the University’s system of tenure for professors.
As Caplis said in a note of triumph, “Churchill’s fraud was so blatant and so contrary to the fundamental credibility of the institution that it forced people across ideological lines to recognize that something needed to be done.”
You can read Kamisky’s commentary and view the pdfs here. This is a comprehensive piece on Churchill and all that has happened since his firing.