Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Final Pow-Wow For Ward Churchill? (Updated Thrice!)

The Board of Regents at the University of Colorado are behind closed door right now deciding the fate of Ward Churchill for his various academic misdeeds:

University of Colorado ethnic-studies professor Ward Churchill faces dismissal today at the hands of the school's Board of Regents after 2 1/2 years of national controversy and investigations.

Protesters backing Churchill have vowed to hold demonstrations at the Boulder campus. CU officials say police will be present.

Churchill has told Boulder's Daily Camera he expects to be fired today.

He is charged with academic misconduct, ranging from plagiarism to inventing facts and even entire historical episodes. Among the more unusual charges is that Churchill published essays under the names of other people then cited them in his footnotes as independent sources supporting his views.

Ward Churchill: the original sock puppet.

I'm not sure what is taking the Board so long. I know they have to dot their I's and cross their T's, but it isn't as if there is much doubt that Churchill's dismissal is the only option.

Churchill has vowed to sue if he is fired. Legal scholars have given him little chance of prevailing in court: Judges usually defer to governing boards on personnel matters, particularly when due process has been followed.

The regents and Brown have done precisely that, said RL Widmann, an English professor who leads CU's faculty council.

About 25 faculty members have been involved in reviewing the charges against Churchill during the various stages of the investigation, Widmann said.

The regents will be closeted with a special counsel assigned by the state attorney general's office as they discuss possible actions.

I know university professors have knee jerk reactions when it comes to questions of removing faculty with tenure, but it is telling that you hear almost no hemming and hawing from Colorado faculty these days. Once all the facts were assembled it became a no-brainer.

There is nothing to do now but wait for the other shoe to drop.....


....and that shoe has dropped. CU regents fire Ward Churchill

The University of Colorado's Board of Regents today fired professor Ward Churchill, 2 1/2 years after his comments about the victims of the 9/11 attacks sparked a firestorm.

The regents, in an 8-1 vote, said Churchill committed academic misconduct. The board convened this morning and spent several hours behind closed doors hearing the charges against Churchill.

University president Hank Brown, in a news conference, said "the decision was really pretty basic" based on the board's findings. Churchill was accused of plagiarism, falsification and other infractions.

Said Brown: "The individual did not express regret, did not apologize, did not indicate a willingness to refrain from this type of
falsification in the future."

Immediately after the vote was announced, Churchill said "New game, new game." He has vowed to sue if the regents acted against him.

The only thing you can call this is justice. To allow Churchill's malfeasance to go unpunished would have been a slap in the face to every member of the scholarly community who takes the principles of free and honest academic inquiry seriously.

Of course this fact doesn't keep Churchill and his supporters from spreading the "big lie."

"If they're going to go through the secret meetings and fire him based on his comments about 9-11, let the public see it," said Churchill's attorney, David Lane. "The behind-closed-door meeting to fire Churchill is exactly what is wrong with this system."

The reason Ward Churchill was fired was because he engaged in copious acts of academic fraud for which he offered no defense. Yes, there are many on the right who wanted him to be fired because of his disgusting personal beliefs, yet that in no way excuses his excremental treatment of the academy. Presumably, there are many, like CU Religious Studies professor Ira Chernus, who would excuse all of Churchill's many actions because they agree with him politically, but I can think of no greater crime against the very possibility of free inquiry. If Ward Churchill can be given a free ride because he has the proper political ideology then there is no reason to even pay lip service to the ideals of scholarly research and academic integrity. That there are members of the academy that would engage in such deliberate deception in defense of an ideological comrade is troubling indeed.

In many way it amazes me that we as a society need to go to such lengths to address such an obvious case of academic fraud. It isn't as if this were a real close call.

Churchill was charged with academic misconduct, ranging from plagiarism to inventing facts and even entire historical episodes.

Among the more unusual charges is that Churchill published essays under the names of other people then cited them in his footnotes as independent sources supporting his views.

Please remember, if you see in print someone claiming Churchill was fired because of his comments about the victims of 9/11, feel free to call them liars.

Here are my "Greatest Hits" of Ward Churchill posts:

Feb. 2nd, 2005
Feb. 5th, 2005
Mar. 5th, 2005 It was in this post that I wrote the following:

Academia is right, there is a question of academic freedom at stake here. However, it isn't the question they are asking. The inability of academia to honestly look at the record of Ward Churchill and exert even the barest minimum of professional standards upon him bodes ill. The entire premise of academic freedom is predicated upon the principle that the academic disciplines can be self regulating. The Ward Churchill episode is pointing out that this is simply untrue. If academics are unable to appropriately handle as "no-brainer" a case as this, how can anyone have the slightest confidence in academics ability to govern themselves? I don't think you can. This invites the interference of legislatures, which is not a good thing. But academia is, to all intents and purposes, abdicating their responsibilities. If you cannot hold Ward Churchill to even minimum academic standards, like firing him for the numerous frauds he has committed, then you have fewer arguments when the legislature decides to intervene.

Mar. 30th, 2005


Just a couple reactions from the web. First from Blue Crab Boulevard:

The man is a disgrace to higher education - and these days, that's saying something. Now the best thing: if Churchill is foolish enough to sue, all of the evidence will come out in open court and under oath. That should finally destroy him.

Second from The Conjecturer:

I got an email from the CU alumni association, informing they have terminated Ward Churchill for issues relating to his academic integrity. This is fantastic news—while I certainly did not like the man, thought him a pompous ass, he hadn’t really done anything firable… that is, until the investigation deeming his research and scholarship deeply substandard. Now that is a reason to fire him. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. I’m half-curious if Bill O’Reilly can bring himself to say something nice about the place. While I do doubt it, I certainly will not watch his show to find out.


More web reaction. This from Ann Althouse in her comments:

Tenure means something. It means a lot! It was taken away from Churchill, and it looks like that happened because people hated some harsh things he said. That does not sit well with me. Think about it. What if some Madisonians who don't like what I say decided to try to screw me and investigated me until they found some violation that they would never have gone looking for in the other professors who don't offend their sensibilities? Would you think that was okay? Would you accept their assertion that my free expression had nothing to do with the outcome?

To which I responded:

Did Churchill get folks gunning for him because of his comments? You bet he did. But the motivations of those people didn't create his fraudulent work. The motivations of those people didn't make him engage in academic sock puppetry. The motivations of those people, in the end, didn't get him fired. Ward Churchill got himself fired by deviating so far from the barest minimum academic standards that there was no way back.

What does tenure mean anyway? Is it a no holds barred contest in which you are allowed to cheat and steal in order to attain? Because, let's be honest here, he didn't do the work necessary to be a tenured faculty. Someone else, who may have taken the job and the idea of being an academic researcher a hell of a lot more seriously, was kept out of that job by Churchill's malfeasance.

The NCAA will take away athletic championships when it is discovered an individual or an institution attained the honor by cheating. Shouldn't the honors of the academic world be held to a higher standard than the athletic?

There is also this long post from Slapstick Politics, where Churchill's supporters show what they consider proper intellectual argumentation. It seems to involve only a single finger. Who knew?


Uriah said...

His academic misconduct got him fired but "beclowning" himself with mind numbingly stupid statements is what got the spotlight turned on him. If anything, it is shameful that he had to go so far for flaws to be attended to by the University.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

I agree wholeheartedly. It certainly doesn't say a lot for the hiring or tenure process that Churchill's indiscretions were not found (or actively ignored) in the name of some other expediency. (Laziness? Cronyism? Racial quotas? All of the above?)

Tully said...

Justice done? Nah, I think justice is a bit short still. But what could be done, has been done. We almost never get full justice.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

As far as his academic shenanigans I would say justice was served. (You cannot do much more than fire a tenured professors.) As for his morally reprehensible personal behavior, you are probably right.