Ward Churchill: By Firing Him, CU Regents 'Gutted Academic Freedom'

By Eichstaedt, Peter | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, September 6, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Ward Churchill: By Firing Him, CU Regents 'Gutted Academic Freedom'


Eichstaedt, Peter, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


BOULDER, COLO.

Former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill may have lost his job, but he hasn't lost his nerve.

"I said something that people in power and with money didn't like," he said, explaining his firing by university regents in July by an 8-1 vote.

Churchill, whose claims of American Indian ancestry have been challenged, said in an exclusive interview with Diverse that he plans to take the university to court over his dismissal.

The university "has not met its burden of proof" that he committed "research misconduct," Churchill said, referring to the reason cited for his firing.

"I didn't engage in plagiarism," he said, noting that the scholars whose work he is accused of stealing have refused to lodge complaints against him. Rather, it has been found that he ghostwrote some of the material he's been accused of using.

Churchill's troubles began in early 2005 when protests erupted over an invitation for him to speak at Hamilton College in upstate New York. The protests were sparked when a Syracuse, N.Y., newspaper noted that he'd written an essay in which he referred to some victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as "little Eichmanns."

Those words appeared in an op-ed published Sept. 12, 2001, online by Dark Night Field Notes. In the article, Churchill gave his explanation of the possible causes of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The essay was later expanded and published as a book rifled On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality, by AK Press in 2003.

In that essay, Churchill argued that those who died in the World Trade Center towers were not innocent vistas. Rather, whether they understood it or not, they were part of a global empire headed by the United States that he compared to Germany's former Third Reich.

Churchill claims he's been targeted by organizations such as the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. The organization supported Churchill's dismissal, but denies Churchill's claim that it regularly investigates professors in the United States who push liberal agendas. Rather, ACTA president Anne Neal insisted the group's aim is to "scrupulously defend professors' academic freedom and expressive rights."

Shortly after the controversy drew national attention, Churchill resigned as head of CU's ethnic studies department, where he had been widely recognized for his scholarship and radicalism regarding American Indian issues.

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