Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Bit of a Setback for Professor Ward Churchill: and a Flubbed Prediction for Me

Back in April, after a jury ruled in favor of Professor Ward Churchill, I figured that the judge telling Colorado State University that it had to give him his job back was a foregone conclusion. Never mind the $1.00 financial settlement.

I was wrong.
"...Ethnic studies professor Ward L. Churchill had won a lawsuit in April alleging that the university had retaliated against him for exercising his free-speech rights -- not for the academic misconduct of which he was subsequently accused.

"Yet the jury also awarded him only $1 in damages. Chief Denver Judge Larry Naves cited that in ruling that Churchill would not return to his $96,392-per-year job nor be entitled to a financial settlement: 'I am bound by the jury's implicit finding that Professor Churchill has suffered no actual damages as a result of the constitutional violation.'

"Naves also agreed that Churchill's return would weaken the school's ability to hold students and faculty accountable for misconduct.

"Churchill criticized the decision. 'What he's saying, in essence, is they were not prepared to treat me as any other faculty member would be treated, which was all I ever required.'..." (Los Angeles Times)
Comparing the 3,000 or so people who were killed when New York City's World Trade Center went down to Adolf Eichmann is what's gotten the most attention, but it's a pretty minor part of the trouble he's in: or should be.

For starters, he says he's a Keetoowah indian. Which he is, sort of. So is former President Clinton. They're both honorary members of the tribe. (Rocky Mouuntain News) Trouble is, it seems that Professor Churchill was passing himself off as an actual member of the Keetoowah Tribe - which the Tribe denies is a fact. (April 3, 2009)

Then there was the plagiarism conducted by Professor Churchill, and the irregularities in how he was hired and given tenure. (July 24, 2007)

That "September 11" essay was, from an academic point of view, the least of U of C, Boulder's concerns when their "Indian" Ethnic Studies professor turned out to be an ersatz Keetoowah, and a plagiarist to boot.

However, it looks like anyone who calls 9/11 victims Nazis, and says that America killed Indians with smallpox has a place in the heart of America's Academia. Or at least that part represented by the AAUP (American Association of University Professors). The AAUP is very big on academic freedom.

Or, rather, their version of academic freedom.
"A national faculty group insists Ward Churchill will stay in academia, despite his ouster at the University of Colorado and a judge's ruling this week that denied his reinstatement.

"But others — including his attorney — aren't so sure another university would want Churchill. And one of his former colleagues on the Boulder campus went so far as to say Churchill, 61, might better be suited as a used-car salesman.

"Churchill’s attorney, David Lane, said the former ethnic studies professor is only concerned with regaining his job at CU. Lane said it would be hard for Churchill to leave a community where he has lived and worked for years.

" 'He's still writing and researching, but I don’t know how many options he has,' Lane said. 'He's lived in Boulder for decades, and I don't know if he wants to uproot his life to live somewhere else. CU has spent the last four years trashing his reputation, so I don't know how many schools would hire him at this point, given the hatchet job CU has done.'

"But Cary Nelson, English professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and president of the American Association of University Professors, said there is 'no chance' that Churchill will leave academia altogether. Nelson said he thinks Churchill will continue giving speeches and publishing in the field of American Indian studies.

"The organization, made up of professors dedicated to the advancement of academic freedom, drafted a letter to the judge in support of Churchill's reinstatement before the hearing and fully supports his decision to appeal the case, Nelson said...." Boulder Daily Camera
Churchill's attorney notwithstanding, I think professor Churchill did a fine job of trashing his own reputation.

I also think that the AAUP, the American Association of University Professors, is doing their profession no good by supporting a plagiarist who apparently lied about his background. I've run into enough alleged scholars like Churchill, for whom ideology is more important than fact.

Although it was an unkind slur on the profession of used car salespeople, I was somewhat relieved to hear that one of Professor Churchill's former colleagues did not entirely approve of the ersatz Indian's academic habits.

On the other hand, I think that English professor Cary Nelson is spot-on in his prediction about Professor Churchill's career.

Despite my error in predicting Professor Churchill's triumphant return to U. C. Boulder, I'll make - not so much a prediction as a guess: Professor Ward Churchill's voice will be heard on America's college and university campuses, as long as taxpayer money is available for guest speakers.

I have difficulty imagining supporters of academic freedom, American style, not wanting someone with the views of Professor Churchill to be heard by as many of America's students as possible.

Related posts: News and views:


Brigid said...

Well, good for the judge. $1, brilliant. ppht

Oh, and typo alert: "Or, rather, what their version of academic freedom."

Brian H. Gill said...


Just to clarify: the $1 settlement was awarded by the jury. It was the lowest figure the law allowed them.

As for the judge: I rather approve of his decision.

And, for Professor Churchill: I doubt that he'll be hurting for money, as long as institutions of American higher education has funds for visiting speakers.

Brian H. Gill said...


And: thanks for the typo alert! It's fixed now.

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