A better place, probably.
Professor Ward Churchill wasn't fired for writing and saying that people in New York City's World Trade Center deserved to die, because they were "little Eichmanns" - that's the sort of thing that's covered by academic freedom and tenure. He lost his job because he plagiarized - and got caught - in circumstances that would have made ignoring the intellectual theft embarrassing.
Victory for Academic Freedom, American StyleProfessor Ward Churchill's vindication in the courts, and his return to the hallowed halls of academia, mark a victory for academic freedom and freedom of expression.
Like this piece of art, created by associate professor Paul Myers, University of Minnesota, Morris:
(from pharyngula, scienceblogs.com, used w/o permission)
When associate professor Meyers originally posted this photo, the University of Minnesota, Morris, quietly removed a few links from their official website - but defended the associate professor's right two insult two major religions.
It's what professors do. The freedom to write and do outrageous things is very important to the academic community.
Deeply buried under contemporary American academia's value system is an extremely important issue: freedom of expression. I've written posts on that before.
I've written about professor Ward Churchill before, too. Including this excerpt:
Professor Ward Churchill achieved national fame in September of 2001, when he wrote an essay titled "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens" in which he compared "technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire" working in the World Trade Center as "little Eichmanns," a professorial quote taken from a Wikipedia article.
In 2003, Professor Churchill wrote a prize-winning book entitled "On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: reflections on the consequences of U.S. imperial arrogance and criminality" (ISBN 1-902593-79-0). (Again, thanks to Wikipedia for bringing this information together.)
(July 24, 2007)
Ward Churchill's an Indian: Just Like Former President ClintonProfessor Ward Churchill and former President Clinton are both honorary members of the Keetoowah Tribe. (Rocky Mountain News)
The Keetoowah Tribe's leadership is free to bestow honorary membership on anyone they like: I have no problem with that. I wouldn't seek it out myself: my ethnic background is eclectic enough as it is.
Professor Churchill says the Keetoowah Tribe's lying. He could be right: they could be part of a vast conspiracy to keep people from knowing that the CIA blew up the World Trade Center. It's even remotely possible that all members of the Keetoowah Tribe are shape-shifting space alien lizard people. (Possible, but wildly improbable.) (January 14, 2009)
Freedom of Expression, Academic Freedom: Great IdeasThere is freedom of expression on the Internet - for now. A few years ago there was a well-intentioned (I trust) effort to 'save the children' from online pornography. The issue is a serious one.
I'm a devout Catholic, so you'd think that I'd be all for clamping down on those nasty pornographers. I am. But I don't think that creating government agencies to decide what nice people are allowed to see, and not allowed to see, is a good idea. At all.
When outfits like the Christian Coalition and the Feminist Majority became allies to 'save the children,' and both want Big Brother to look out for the common people: I get very concerned. Maybe it's my sixties roots.
So far, the Internet is free. People, including myself, can express ideas whether or not they're popular, or conform to the ideals of a journal's review board, or satisfy a government agent's idea of what's naughty and what's nice. I trust an open marketplace if ideas a great deal more than I do experts, picked for their proper views.
Academic Freedom - For All?I'd be a little more impressed with "academic freedom," if I hadn't been in universities and colleges for much of the seventies and eighties, and didn't study the news. Professor Ward Churchill and associate professor Paul Meyers enjoy academic freedom. They also just happen to have views which are accepted by most American academics. Sometimes heartily accepted, sometimes not: but 'everybody knows' that the right to repeat rumors about how nasty America and capitalism and related topics is important.
As far as they go, they're right.
I'd be much more impressed with American academia, if a meteorologist with a national audience - and heretical views on Global Warming - hadn't been yanked from public view. (April 29, 2008) The institution of higher education that pulled the plug on Dr. Gray's hurricane coverage says it was budget considerations, not heresy. Dr. Gray insists that they're right I don't blame him. He's got his career to think of. And, the budget might have something to do with the decision. (March 31, 2009)
If Dr. Gray's was an isolated case, I'd assume that the official explanation was accurate. As it may be: as far as it goes. But there are quite a few 'Dr. Grays' out there - and I think they're starting to be heard. (December 16, 2008)
Time for Change: Real ChangeA thorough re-examination of American academia's culture, assumptions, and rules is decades-past overdue. I doubt, very much, that any fuss by "unsavory Ward Churchill online critics" (Not My Tribe)
Until academic reform happens, American citizens will continue to pay taxes which go, in part, to supporting people like professor Ward Churchill and associate professor Meyers. People with approved views will continue having their right to be outrageous: and enjoy the assurance that opposing views will be afforded equal - but separate - protection.
More-or-less related posts:
- "Sounds of Silence: 2009"
(March 31, 2009)
- "Feeling Ungood About Doublethink? Here's Help"
(March 23, 2009)
- "Odd Allies: Opposition to Waterboarding and Web Censorship"
(March 9, 2008)
- "Lebanon, Israel, Pakistan, India, and the Lizard People"
(January 14, 2009)
- "'Why is Everybody Always Picking on Me?' - The United Nations, Muslims, Zionists, and 'Those People'"
(October 5, 2008)
- " 'Self-Satisfied Ignorance?' Eucharist, Quran, and Atheist Book Trashed"
(August 5, 2008)
- Includes "Fresh Eyes, a Questioning Mind, and Nailing the Quran," excerpts from two spirited defenses of Myers' performance art
- "Quran, Eucharist, Atheist Book Nailed by Equal-Opportunity Desecrator"
(August 4, 2008)
- "American Academic Institutions: Impartial, Neutral, Nonpartisan, Dispassionate"
(April 29, 2008)
- "Professor Ward Churchill: 'I'll Be Back' "
(July 25, 2007)
- "Professor Ward Churchill: 9/11 Truthteller, or Nincompoop?"
(July 25, 2007)
- "Professor Ward Churchill: Victim of Neocons, or Plagiarist?"
(July 24, 2007)
- "Analysis: Ward Churchill And The Tension of Tenure"
CBS News (April 3, 2009)
- "Colorado professor wins wrongful-termination suit"
Los Angeles Times (April 3, 2009)
- "Jury awards $1 to professor fired for 9/11-Nazi essay"
CNN (April 3, 2009)
- "Churchill and his curiously vile detractors"
Not My Tribe (March 26, 2009)
- "Tribe clarifies stance on prof"
- "Milder statement explains Churchill's 'associate' label"
- "Tribe snubs prof"
- "Cherokee band says Churchill's claim of membership a fraud"
- "Censorship, Propaganda, and Freedom of Speech"
(link list, started September 17, 2007)