Northern Valley Beacon

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Monday, June 26, 2006


Firing Ward Churchill

A lot of folks could not care less that the Chancellor at the University of Colorado has recommended that Prof. Ward Churchill be fired. His name is not familiar to most people, and is of interest largely to other professors and members of the ultra-regressive movement who wish some extreme vengeance on him. They do so because he called the victims of 9/11 "little Eichmanns" as participants in a culture that, in his mind, systematically implements racial repression and genocide.

My interest in Churchill stems from the fact that I engaged in research on Native American literature and culture when no courses were offered on it in prominent universities, and I had the privilege of introducing and teaching courses on the subject. Churchill is a professor of ethnic studies and has written extensively on Native American issues.

While I may take some exception to Churchill's "little Eichmanns" comments, I also acknowledge that they have some merit as cultural criticism, but that Churchill certainly had the right to make them. They provide the motive behind the raging call to vaporize Churchill.


The reasons that the Chancellor has for recommending Churchill's dismissal arise from charges of misconduct in research: plagiarism, fabrication, scholarly slovenliness, and general dishonesty. While the charges were clearly promoted by those engaged in a political vendetta against Churchill, a committee was assigned the task of investigating the charges on their own merits. It was called the Investigative Committee of the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct of the University of Colorado at Boulder. This committee did an exhaustive job of examining the truth and accuracy of representations Churchill did in his scholarship. Their findings concluded that Churchills had committed what amounts to academic fraud in the way he represented historical and scholarly documents.

Academic dishonesty is the charge on which Churchill's dismissal is based.

He has the right to appeal and argue his side. He gets the benefit of academic due process.

The sad thing is that Ward Churchill's transgressions are not unique. There are professors who routinely misrepresent what other people write and say, who draw conclusions that are based on no systematic assemblage of facts or rigorous critical reasoning, who constantly violate the protections of academic free speech.

I hope that Professor Churchill's appeals process will be long and meticulous. However, I hope the occasion puts universities in general on notice that they, like the University of Colorado, should be more responsive to matters of honesty, integrity, and competence issuing from their campuses. I can easily make up a list of professors I have encountered who violate the standards of academic honesty and competence more flagrantly that Professor Churchill did.

I wish him the best. I can't wish the same for some others I have encountered. The universities and the country would be vastly improved if they did not hold academic positions. It is a matter of honesty and competence. Not free speech.

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