“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.” Frederick Douglass said that.
Resistance is never futile because it establishes the line beyond which we will not be pushed. Ward Churchill is pushing back because this struggle is about how easily we will be silenced.
Ward is in the process of appealing his lawsuit against the University of Colorado. CU fired Churchill in violation of the First Amendment. You can help by contributing to the legal fund.
Ward Churchill was a highly praised CU professor for decades; what happened?
In January 2005 Ward Churchill was a tenured full professor of American Indian Studies, chair of the Ethnic Studies Department, and the recipient of the University of Colorado’s highest awards for teaching, scholarship and service. Then the rightwing stumbled on an old op-ed piece about 9/11 on an obscure website and a media feeding frenzy ensued. Politicians and donors put intense pressure on CU to fire Ward Churchill.
Didn’t CU admit his speech was constitutionally protected?
When the “controversy” broke, University officials launched an investigation of “every word” Ward Churchill had ever published. They knew it was all protected by the First Amendment, but needed time to find some other excuse to fire him. So, first, they tried the case in the media, in violation of all their own rules on confidentiality.
Weren’t there complaints about his scholarship?
CU had received no complaints about Ward Churchill’s scholarship so, with the help of the Rocky Mountain News, University officials spent months soliciting allegations. Even then, they only had some random allegations but still no actual complaints, so Interim Chancellor Distefano stepped in as “complainant,” using the newspaper stories as the “complaints.”
Wasn’t there an investigation by his peers?
An Investigative Committee dominated by CU insiders and including no American Indians or Indigenous Studies scholars was appointed. The Committee never told Ward Churchill what standards it was using, and arbitrarily limited his time to respond. It was chaired by a “feminist” who, before even meeting Ward Churchill, had sent out an e-mail comparing him to “male celebrity wrongdoers” like OJ Simpson.
Didn’t the investigating committee find misconduct?
After combing through more than 4,000 pages and 12,000 footnotes of Ward Churchill’s publications, CU found only a handful of minor points to dispute. CU called them “fraud” and “plagiarism” but they were really questions of historical interpretation and claimed deviation from unspecified “standards.”
Many people have been fooled by the heft of the Investigative Committee’s 124-page Report. In fact, most of the allegations were dropped. The charges boiled down to:
- 4 questions of interpretation of sources concerning smallpox epidemics or
“blood quantum” laws.
- 3 charges of ghostwriting and attribution of authorship, under “standards” the
Committee never could identify. The author whose work was supposedly
plagiarized never accused Ward Churchill of doing so.
Why shouldn’t we believe the “Investigative Report”?
CU’s Report was so shoddy that two research misconduct complaints were filed against the Committee by 9 CU professors, 7 outside professors, and 2 attorneys. These scholars, who do have expertise in the field, accused the Committee of intentionally distorting, falsifying, and fabricating evidence in order to discredit Prof. Churchill’s scholarship. CU’s response? The administrators who claimed such concern about the “academic integrity” of Ward’s work refused to investigate these charges. Several other formal complaints have been filed against Committee members, but none have been investigated.
Didn’t an internal review recommend a 1-year suspension?
A CU faculty review panel concluded that but for Ward Churchill’s constitutionally protected speech, this investigation would not have occurred. Finding that the Investigative Committee exceeded its charge and had insufficient evidence for several of its conclusions, the review panel recommended a 1-year suspension. But this was ignored by President Hank Brown, a staunch supporter of ACTA, the rightwing organization which had targeted Ward Churchill since 2005. Brown recommended termination. After 2½ years, the Regents finally had the excuse they were looking for to fire Ward Churchill.
The bottom line?
Qualified American Indian studies scholars who examined the charges and the evidence have concluded that Ward Churchill did NOT engage in research misconduct. Legal scholars have noted that the investigation was pretextual and that even if the charges were true, these are not acts for which tenured professors are fired. Click here to find out what you can do to help.
So why was Ward Churchill fired?
Because pressure from donors and politicians is more important to the University of Colorado than teaching, scholarship, service, or the Constitution.
“If the charges were serious, they would have been brought up before.”
-- Noam Chomsky