Five years after Ward Churchill was fired by the University of Colorado, his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was rejected without comment.
Churchill gained nationwide infamy for writing an offensive essay in which he argued that U.S. policy provoked the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He labeled the financial-service employees killed in the World Trade Center “little Eichmanns,” suggesting their work in America’s capitalist system was the moral equivalent of the Nazi Holocaust to annihilate the Jewish people. Churchill explicitly denied the victims were innocent and essentially argued that they deserved what happened to them, saying the attacks were a response “befitting” their profession. Source: Breitbart Big Government
Churchill, who before being fired taught ethnic studies (with tenure) at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has for years been the subject of intense debate about issues that include academic freedom and academic integrity. He challenged his dismissal on a variety of grounds related to his First Amendment rights, and asked the Supreme Court to review the case after he lost appeals in Colorado’s court system. As is the norm in such actions by the U.S. Supreme Court, no reason was given for declining the case.
The Colorado board fired Churchill after a faculty panel found that he committed repeated, intentional scholarly misconduct. Churchill denied the misconduct, but much of his appeal focused not on the merits of the misconduct charges per se, but on whether the university’s investigations into him were unconstitutionally influenced by a desire to punish his controversial political views.
The issue was tricky for many academics who were involved in the case, who said that they knew Churchill’s views were controversial and believed he had committed scholarly misconduct. To cite a metaphor used in one of the faculty reports on Churchill: If a police officer doesn’t like the bumper sticker on a driver’s car and so stops the driver for speeding, is a ticket justified as long as the driver was really speeding?
Faculty members who participated in the reviews of Churchill differed on the role of the bumper sticker, and whether he should be fired, but the panels all agreed that Churchill had been speeding — multiple times.
Churchill referred to 9/11 victims as “little Eichmans.” His attorney says Churchill’s First Amendment rights have been attacked, which equates to the right to plagiarize and slander in the classroom being his First Amendment right.
From my original story on Churchill: Ross 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 – almost unheard of. 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. I’m betting Ward Churchill will still have the opportunity to crawl inside the minds of some of America’s young. Let’s watch which Progressive institution hires him now.