Debate Sharpens over Ward Churchill Verdict

One thing I kind of admired or respected was that, even though the world may disagree with what Ward Churchill said, even though it was very painful to people, I do respect that he can stand up for what he believes in… He never issued an apology because he doesn’t feel one was needed.

— Juror Bethany Newill, at the Denver Post, 4/4/09.

On April 2, a jury in Denver rendered its verdict in the case of Ward Churchill. The jury agreed with former University of Colorado (CU) professor Ward Churchill—and the many distinguished scholars in his field of Native American studies who testified on his behalf—that he was fired in July, 2007 not for faulty scholarship but in retaliation for a controversial essay he wrote after 9/11. There’s been extensive and continuing coverage in the major media of the decision’s impact. And this is an indication of the significance and great stakes for the battle to defend dissent and critical thinking in academia, and ultimately in society. The essence of the case from the very beginning was the political persecution by a major university of a controversial professor, scholar, and activist—that’s what the jury confirmed. The jury’s verdict is a significant setback for forces hell-bent on suppressing and stifling dissent and critical thinking on campuses.

The jury also awarded $1 in damages. Five out of the six jurors argued to pay Ward Churchill more in damages, but the jury as a whole could not agree. A juror who spoke to the press later explained their decision: “…it wasn’t a slap in his face or anything like that when we didn’t give him any money. It’s just that David Lane (Churchill’s attorney) kept saying this wasn’t about the money, and in the end, we took his word for that.”1 Professor Churchill said: “What was asked for—and what was delivered—was justice.”

Witch-hunt on Trial

There were two elements the jury had to determine in rendering its verdict: did the majority of the Board of Regents of CU fire Professor Churchill principally because of his post-9/11 essay? And even if they did, was Churchill correct that he would not have been fired for other reasons—that is the alleged research misconduct?

Ward Churchill was a tenured professor of American Indian Studies and Chair of the Ethnic Studies Department at CU-Boulder (2002-2005). In January 2005, his invitation to speak at Hamilton College in upstate New York suddenly became the target of right wing forces, the governors of New York and Colorado, and radio and TV figures like Bill O’Reilly, because of a sharply worded essay Churchill had written three years earlier, right after 9/11. This essay was critical of the U.S. role in the world and included a formulation about how those people who worked as functionaries for the large corporations with offices in the World Trade Center were “little Eichmanns”—a reference to the functionaries of the Nazi regime.

The speech was cancelled, and numerous politicians, including the governor of Colorado, called for Churchill to be fired. After first launching an investigation of all of Churchill’s writings to find a reason to fire him, the university changed gears, put together a collection of mainly old complaints about aspects of his large body of work, and formed a faculty committee (IC) to investigate. In July 2007, Churchill was fired by the university Regents, who pointed to the IC’s findings of “serious research misconduct,” though the IC had only recommended suspension.

Among the “heavy-hitters” behind Professor Churchill’s firing who were called as witnesses was former Republican governor Bill Owens. Juror Bethany Newill described the testimony this way: “We’d seen depositions of previous testimony, and we found that a lot of them contradicted themselves.” In speaking of Governor Owens she said: “He had gone on the Bill O’Reilly show and mentioned threatening the budget” [that he might cut CU’s state funding if they didn’t get rid of Churchill]; “On the stand, he said that wasn’t what he was doing, but that was clearly what I saw.”

There was remarkable testimony by Betsy Hoffman, who’d been president of the University of Colorado from 2000 until resigning in March of 2005, shortly after the controversy broke out. One observer at the trial described Dr. Hoffman’s testimony where she described a conversation she had “with the Governor [Owens] where she said he told her to fire Ward Churchill ‘tomorrow,’ that his tone was ‘threatening,’ and that if she didn’t he would ‘unleash his plan.’”2

Churchill’s attorney, David Lane, asked Dr. Hoffman about the comparison of the treatment of Professor Churchill to neo-McCarthyism that she’d made in a speech to a faculty committee less than a week before resigning:

“She said that the list of the 101 Worst Professors in the Country by David Horowitz3 was an example of this type of targeting, and pointed out that list included Mr. Churchill and some ‘very highly regarded academics, like Derrick Bell, who were espousing controversial left-wing views.’

“Dr. Hoffman… began researching where some of the criticism of Mr. Churchill was coming from. She found a website for ACTA, an organization the Colorado Chapter of which Governor Owens and Senator Hank Brown had been founding members. The organization encouraged members to ‘take a very active role in reducing the left-wing bias in universities.’ Once ACTA became involved in an ‘all out assault’ on CU and Mr. Churchill during February 2005, Dr. Hoffman assumed that the action was part of the ‘plan’ ‘unleashed’ by Governor Owens….

“Mr. Lane asked if she saw a link between the 9/11 essay becoming publicized and ACTA working in concert with the right-wing media to paint Mr. Churchill as an example of ‘what’s wrong with academia in this country’ and Dr. Hoffman indicated that this was her impression at the time… ‘It was an all-out assault on Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado, and me,’ she testified.”2 (emphasis added)

The jury concluded political motivations were principal among the majority of Regents in the decision to fire Churchill. The question remained; would Professor Churchill have been fired for research misconduct anyway?

Experts in American Indian Studies and Indian Law Testify

Many scholars, experts in Professor Churchill’s field of American Indian Studies testified on his behalf, disagreeing with most of the IC’s findings and conclusions. Professor Eric Cheyfitz, Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters at Cornell University, had only met Churchill in 2007, but was familiar with his scholarship and held it in high regard. He said his reaction to the IC report, as elaborated in his extensive recent essay, “Framing Ward Churchill: The Political Construction of Research Misconduct,”4 was that the charges were “fundamentally baseless and motivated by the political circumstances surrounding the 9/11 essay.” He then went on to challenge each of the committee’s findings.

Dr. Barbara Alice Mann, an eminent historian, teacher and writer at the University of Toledo, is a Native American and author of nine books. Her latest, The Gift of Disease, includes a chapter on the 1837 smallpox epidemic that destroyed the Mandan Indians of the Great Plains. Dr. Mann’s testimony contradicted the IC’s report—saying there was indeed a “reasonable basis” for Churchill’s claim that the smallpox epidemic was a result of blankets taken from an infirmary in St. Louis, and the claim that army doctors at Fort Clark told the infected Indians to scatter.

This is just a glimpse of how fundamentally flawed, how politically motivated, and how damaging to historical scholarship and the search for the truth this whole investigation was. Research by Revolution reveals that in November of 2006, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) chapter at CU-Boulder had written the university, saying out of Churchill’s more than twenty books and hundreds of articles, chapters, speeches, and electronic communications, the committee investigating Churchill’s work studied six pages of his writings. The IC offered no evidence that they were even familiar with the bulk of Churchill’s work, yet they made claims from a tiny sample of evidence that he “deliberately” engaged in research misconduct; that there was a “pattern” of such misconduct, and that he “has repeatedly plagiarized, as well as fabricated and falsified information to support his views on American Indian history.” Nevertheless, their findings have been used to destroy Churchill’s reputation as a scholar, and to delegitimize basic verdicts about the genocide of the native peoples.

After weeks spent listening to testimony about Churchill’s scholarship, juror Newill concluded: “I definitely saw where [the university] was coming from on a few of them,” but in other instances, “I thought they had really weak arguments. To me, it just seemed like the charges were trumped up. And even if all of those things were true, we didn’t feel that was the reason for termination.”2

In a New York Times essay on April 5, 2009, Stanley Fish, a highly recognized professor in the U.S., wrote that the accusations that the committee investigated “are the kind scholars regularly hurl at their polemical opponents. It’s part of the game. But in most cases, after you’ve trashed the guy’s work in a book or a review, you don’t get to fire him.” Fish then observed, like many other scholars, “…if the standards for dismissal adopted by the Churchill committee were generally in force, hardly any of us professors would have jobs.” He added, “There is… a disconnect in the report between its often nuanced considerations of the questions raised in and by Churchill’s work, and the conclusion, announced in a parody of a judicial verdict, that he has committed crimes worthy of dismissal, if not of flogging.”5

*****

The battle to defeat the political persecution of Ward Churchill is far from over. CU has a month to appeal the verdict; and it is up to the judge to decide whether CU will be ordered to pay Churchill’s attorneys’ fees, to award Churchill his lost wages, and to require the university to give Churchill his job back, which has been at the heart of his demands from the beginning. CU officials are expressing strong opposition to his returning to campus.

Beyond that, there is also a great deal at stake for academia and for society overall right now in upholding and defending this verdict, and deepening its lessons. An ugly, high-stakes public witch-hunt by dangerous, reactionary, and powerful forces, aimed at spreading a repressive chill over the universities, has been dragged into the light, and dealt a setback. But these forces, far from retreating, are regrouping, and trying to turn the meaning of this verdict on its head.

To them, Professor Churchill remains the “poster-boy for academic irresponsibility in both substance and style,” as the Chairman of the conservative National Association of Scholars put it in “NAS Regrets Ward Churchill Verdict.” John Leo, senior fellow at the ruling class think tank the Manhattan Institute, calls Churchill’s scholarship “hideous and embarrassing,” blaming the university for hiring, “for diversity reasons, an unprepared, erratic, ideologue with no sense of fairness and no academic credentials…” And Ann Neal, president of ACTA, says “shock, hurt, and even anger are surely natural reactions to the recent jury determination,” but promises that “ACTA is here to help” all those trustees strongly motivated to respond.

With stakes so high, a robust debate is called for with those within and outside academia that have accepted these twisted distortions, now discredited by the Denver verdict. Roger W. Bowen, who was head of the AAUP when the Churchill attack was in full swing, practically brags in the Wall Street Journal that he did nothing in response to requests for assistance from “his [Churchill’s] loyal spouse, Natsu Taylor Saito.” Bowen says, “When Churchill invokes ‘academic freedom’ as a protection for scholarly fraud, he dishonors a noble tradition that appropriately defends honest scholars who bravely challenge conventional wisdom.”6 What is this other than continuing to cling to the same distortions coming from the likes of academic hit man David Horowitz; ACTA; William Bennett and company.

In a supplement to Revolution Issue #81, “Warning: The Nazification of the American University” we wrote that powerful, right wing forces in this country have set out to transform university administrations into instruments of coercive enforcement and control over faculty and students—intimidating, threatening, and “cleaning house” of dissident thinkers when called on to do so, while leaving scholars under attack to fend for themselves. These right wing forces attacking the university are “out to turn the university into a zone of uncontested indoctrination, where severe limits would be placed on permissible discourse—in terms of professors speaking out, writing, or encouraging engagement over controversial issues in the classroom, etc.; and in terms of restricting and gutting programs like African American studies, women’s studies, etc., that challenge and refute the official narratives and explanations of U.S. history and present-day inequality and global lopsidedness.”

And further: “The overall objective of this attack on dissent and critical thinking is to change the university as we have known it: in its internal life and functioning and in its effects on society. If this reactionary program wins out, the university will be turning out students who will have had little, if any, opportunity to think critically, into a society qualitatively more severely repressive than anything seen in this country’s history.”

The challenge to administrators, faculty, and especially students is to stand up to this assault. And broader segments of society must join with them. We must continue to defend those like Ward Churchill when they are singled out for attack, and, more generally, defend the ability of professors to hold dissenting and radical views. It is vitally important that the new generation of students step forward to defend an unfettered search for the truth, intellectual ferment, and dissent. One way or another, this struggle over the university and intellectual life will have profound repercussions on what U.S. society will be like, and on the prospects for bringing a whole new society into being.

  1. Michael Roberts, “Juror Bethany Newill talks about the Ward Churchill trial,” Denver Westword, 4/3/09. []
  2. From a blog of law school observers of the trial, theracetothebottom.org. [] [] []
  3. Referring to the book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. []
  4. In Carvalho, Edward J. and David B. Downing, eds., Works and Days: Academic Freedom and Intellectual Activism in the Post-9/11 University 51/52.26 (Spring/Fall 2008). []
  5. Stanley Fish, New York Times, 4/5/09. []
  6. Freedom, but for Honest Research,” Wall Street Journal, April 1, 2009. []

Reggie Dylan can be reached at: reggiexdylan@hotmail.com. Read other articles by Reggie.

18 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Peter said on April 17th, 2009 at 10:42am #

    Its very peculiar that the United States does not face up to the genocide it committed against the American Indian, while at the same time building a holocaust museum in almost every state the country to remind people of what Germany did to Jews during WW II. Actually, in some states there is more than one holocaust museum.

    Apparently, hatred of native Americans still exists. Ward Churchill was fired for voicing his opinion, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is vilified in our press regularly and Hugo Morales of Bolivia is also treated as an enemy. All three of these men are native American or partially native American. All three consider themselves fighting for the underpriveledged.

  2. Peter said on April 17th, 2009 at 10:44am #

    Above is supposed to say “building a holocaust museum in almost every state in the country”.

  3. rg the lg said on April 17th, 2009 at 12:00pm #

    Us?

    Complicit?

    Chickens come home to roost?

    Nah … our president was a decider … and we are deniers … of the holocaust we perpetrated against the original occupants … of the pain and suffering we knowingly inflict on the rest of the world … of the blatant racism for which we are known (and secretly proud!). But we are the ‘perfect’ people … the best … incapable of wrong.

    9/11 was predicted … it was blowback … there are no innocents. Never have been, never will be.

    Ward Churchill was a victim of his own honesty … of the reality that USans are incapable of admitting they can ever do anything wrong … and even worse, we elected a man (O’Bama) to make us feel good about ourselves even though we elected his predecessor TWICE to make us feel good about ourselves.

    Ya think we might just be fickle? Maybe two-faced? Maybe … just maybe the reason we point fingers is that we really don’t want to admit that we WANT AND DESIRE THE EMPIRE … a country that WANTS AND DESIRES TOTAL DOMINANCE of the rest of the world?

    Our courts say that Churchill was wronged by the University of Colorado … but USans need a scapegoat … certainly WE could never do anything wrong!

    Bullshit … the question is: are we capable of any correct behavior when our empire is at stake? I don’t think so …

    RG the LG

  4. Joe Mitchell said on April 17th, 2009 at 12:32pm #

    None of this surprises me. Remember this is the State that sent the Pinkerton thugs shooting from a train into the striking miner camps. Check out the Ledford Massacre.

  5. Suthiano said on April 17th, 2009 at 2:49pm #

    Ward Churchill is 100 times the scholar and researcher of most university profs.

    At the ‘highly regarded’ university I went to, teachers basically masturbated to images of Obama… I hear that’s the case in many places.

  6. Suthiano said on April 17th, 2009 at 2:52pm #

    I’ve distributed “The Ghosts of 9/11″ to several people in the years since it was written…

    The standard response: denial… so much denial that it was impossible to accept he was writing about that very same attitude.

  7. Hallie said on April 17th, 2009 at 4:28pm #

    Well Reggie you are right. But you should remember that the Amerikan university system is already finished. Ward was not, and is not, the only radical academic taking the hits. Look at Hassan in Colombia, Finkelstein in DePaul, and there are lots of others around the US (and now in Canada) who are less well known, and that are struggling with admin hacks who want them out of their offices by the end of the semester.

    On the campus that I work at, the admin bosses already fired a couple of profs who exposed the corrupt administrative practices to the local media. I am a doctoral candidate at a western land grant university, and man, I cannot believe the level of intimidation, corporatism, authoritarian practices, and just plain old institutional fascism that I have seen on this campus. And I know for a fact that this university, where I happen to work at, is not the only one with this problem. The whole Amerikan university system is infected with these epidemics.

    Most radical profs learn to become ‘collegial’ very quickly, not to publish controversial articles that reflect on the local university, local government authorities, or local religious sensibilities in any way – if they want tenure. But even getting tenure is getting tougher. Admin hacks desperately want the few benefits that they give out to disappear altogether. They are tired for paying for a pathetic and weird humanities prof who teaches only two courses per semester, publishes books that few people read, and expects a six figure salary with full medical and dental benefits – and lots of other perks – after a full professorship position – and this includes ‘Ethnic Studies’ long haired profs who rant on genocide, i.e. Churchill.

    The bad economy is a godsend for these admin capos, which include presidents, vice presidents, provosts, vice provosts – and deans (the lowest on the totem pole – but the most ambitious too) and there are lots of other new positions being invented as I write. These guys get the good money from the regents-trustees who really control these universities – to do the cutting – meaning firing the useless prof radicals-weirdos who should be begging on the street corner or doing hard time for possible terrrorism charges.

    This is fascist Amerika not France or the Netherlands. Most majors at most state universities are not geared for open debate and free thinking. The most popular majors with students are business, marketing, the hard and applied sciences, such as engineering, criminal justice-social sciences, and social work-psychology. The Amerikan university is just another corporate hack fund. Universities do make money on lots of matriculated students, large lecture classes, part time ‘adjunk ‘slave-teachers to do the intro basic courses, such as Eng. 101, intercollegiate sports, low grade crap food student dining, student parking fees, other erroneous student fees with matriculation, minimum security jail-student resident halls, and campus police forces. A class on American Genocide with ten students and that meets fro only one semester every three years just doesn’t cut it with the admin numbers game. Where do the humanities radicals actually fit within the whole scheme?

    The humanities radical profs that I know have to walk on eggshells at their jobs. They should not demand too much from the deans, never offend students and try to get 100% student popularity-evaluations, not complain about unpaid meetings, force themselves to publish – for the sake of publications, and accept ‘service positions’ in order to show their duty to the univ.-corporation. Meanwhile, the deans desperately try to delegate more workloads, classloads and planning loads on to them. Cowardice has become the unspoken word on campus. Everyone knows that all campus workers have to take a pay cut – except administrators. Profs like Churchill are few and far between on Amerikan campuses. They speak the truth to power and they ‘don’t take shit’ – the admin thugs want them out – and they will eventually have all of them out (unless they shape up) whether right-wing kook jobs like ACTA survive or don’t survive.

  8. Brian said on April 17th, 2009 at 4:34pm #

    America is an unjust country run by an elite that is largely corrupt. However, they can’t run everything the way they want. Some people believe, and exemplify in their actions, our lofty constitutional rhetoric. This jury is an example of that.

    So, there is just a little justice in America. Not enough for me, but this was sweet!

    And I hope this great teacher and scholar gets his job back.

  9. kalidas said on April 17th, 2009 at 5:00pm #

    OK, Great! Now let’s get on with the business of Norman Finkelstein.
    Oh, yea, never mind..

  10. Peter said on April 17th, 2009 at 7:04pm #

    I agree. A real injustice has been done to Professor Finkelstein. Several times actually. But times are changing. Although he is not teaching at a university, he’s very busy these days traveling and speaking.

  11. CC said on April 17th, 2009 at 8:23pm #

    Ward Churchill has the right to voice his beliefs. He has a right to do so without fear of losing his job over his beliefs and/or words. He has the right to question whether his firing was a witch hunt or not, and to let a jury decide.

    He does not have the right to fabricate and falsify, or to ghostwrite. Regardless of the fact that uuniversities generally don’t have explicit rules against ghostwriting, it is a deliberate attempt to deceive the reader and to strengthen one’s scholarly argument in the absence of better evidence. It’s a convenient way to make yourself look like you know more than you do; it’s lying by deceit. If there are no hard rules i tis likely because such activity is so obviously deceitful that no one thinks to include it in their policies. Students in college are not allowed to put another’s name on their work, or to cite themselves without proper documentation.

    He does not have the right to say a source says one thing when it does not, or it says the opposite, and then cover that fact up by citing the whole document rather than a page number so it makes his falsification difficult to track. Etc. etc.

    He doies not have the right to cite a source as backing you up when it doesn’t, or to quote a specific fact from that work which does not appear.

    Yes, CU is at fault. This was absolutely a witch hunt. They wanted to get rid of him for what he wrote, in my opinion. But that’s not all. CU was dead wrong to hire him with his lack of rigorous degree experience (which is expected of major university professors). He has no doctorate and not even a masters in his field. His masters is from a now-defunct university where grades were optional. They had no right to fast track such a person to tenure (one year versus six, if I remember correctly). All this because of an initiative to dicersify the faculty. A fine goal, yes, but at what cost? CU caused this problem and they deserve whatever happened and will happen. But this doesn’t mean WC is fit to teach. Just because they chose this moment to look into his work doesn’t mean he’s innocent. They may be guilty, but they also uncovered genuine academic misconduct. It is a slam dunk. I am an academic, and I’d lose my job without blinking if I did this. Whoever says that he is an exempliary researcher/scholar either knows nothing about scholarship or about this case. His research is sloppy, shoddy, and it appears obvious that it is intentionally so in many instances.

    He has every right to challenge the master narrative. Good for him. If the master narrative is built on lies, it needs to be debunked. But if his own narrative is full of lies, it is likewise of no use except to those who profit from the lies.

    Let him write offensive material. Who cares? But not lies. There are no winners here.

  12. HR said on April 18th, 2009 at 1:30am #

    CC, do you have some documentation — not FAUX News stories — to support your apparent conclusions regarding Churchill’s scholarship? Or are you simply speculating?

  13. Tony Smith said on April 18th, 2009 at 3:33am #

    CC — your “rant” contains very little documentation. When people speak in broad strokes about “specific” scholarship, they are often distorting, rather than reavealing the truth.

    Also, I find your lack of appreciation of the First Amendment shocking — especially for someone who claims to be an academic. The First Amendment protects unpopular speech, and it even protects speech that is questionable. Even speech that is generally unprotected (like “hate speech” or “fighting words”) cannot be selectively proscribed. In other words, even if Churchill engaged in academic “fraud,” which is not protected speech, the Univerity cannot enforce a prohibition of academic ethics on an ideological basis.

    If your school would fire you for the content of your speech, then perhaps you should find another job. But let me guess: the Native American/Black/Latino/Asian-American/Feminist/Gay professors are shutting good people like you out of the academy, so you cannot find a decent job where the administration believes in free speech. Poor you….

  14. Hue Longer said on April 18th, 2009 at 5:47am #

    CC,

    circumstantial ad hominem is still circumstantial ad hominem even if you point it out before engaging in it

  15. rosemarie jackowski said on April 18th, 2009 at 1:57pm #

    Justice was not rendered. WC should have received, in addition to the one dollar, many thousands in punitive damages, a public apology, and reappointment to his job.
    Churchill is a national treasure. If more profs were like him, this would be a different world.
    Any teacher in the US, K thru grad school, who taught the truth would jeopardize his/her job.

  16. Peter said on April 18th, 2009 at 5:19pm #

    Ward Churchill received his B.A. in technological communications in 1974 and M.A. in communications theory in 1975, both from Sangamon State University, now the University of Illinois at Springfield. The University he attended still exists. Its name was changed.

  17. CC said on April 21st, 2009 at 12:32am #

    Come on, people…I’m not sure that I expected any responses at all to my post, and I certainly wasn’t expecting anyone here to agree with me, but I have to wonder whether anyone who responded to me actually read anything that I wrote. I didn’t post here for any other reason than to provide a differing opinion, which is what academic discourse is supposed to be about (and this has been echoed recently by more Churchill supporters than I can count).

    So by way of rebuttal, let me repeat/clarify:

    First, it is not my intention to argue that Ward Churchill is stupid, or that he doesn’t have the brains to teach at a large university. Clearly he’s a smart guy and seems to know as much as any PhD. My point in mentioning his education was to simply state that CU hired him with far fewer credentials that is standard for a tenured position in a different field than his degree is in, especially at a large school. I was blaming the school for this, not him. If it was offered, why shouldn’t he take it?

    On my “lack of documentation”: I can document the investigative reports by the university as well as testimony in the trial itself. If any of you feel those sources are false and fabricated, fine. It so happens that after reading it and hearing it, I do not. I assume, HR, that you refer to the Rocky Mountain News story as to where my evidence comes from. As far as I know, anything I mentioned in my last post that might be in that story also appears in the trial testimony and the reports made by CU. I didn’t directly have that story in mind when I posted.

    Some of you ask me for my evidence and call my conclusions “circumstantial,” yet I see no documentation to the contrary. In the story above, one witness (Dr. Mann) stated a “reasonable basis” for the smallpox story. Ok, fine. Yet I find that assertion to be vague, especially compared to the book WC cited as his source for that incident. I simply see an absence of specific refutation. So please, I invite you to disagree with me, but if evidence is so important to you then document your own opinion and don’t just ask me for it. The bottom line is that I can point to several sources that back me up, not all directly affiliated with CU. That in itself does not make me right but it’s a good place to start. That’s what my whole reason for being interested in this case is: Evidence. My sources (the trial, the CU docs, etc.) back me up and I did not write them. That does not seem true with some of Churchill’s scholarship.

    Tony, you seem to be under the impression that I attacked Churchill’s right to free speech, when in fact I defended it. I said he has the right to free speech. I said he does not have the right to fabricate or falsify. If you do not believe he did either of those things, then okay. I did not attack his 9/11 essay or his politics, beliefs, or the general subject of his scholarship. That may be what got him investigated (which was wrong), but I care not what he says which may or may not rub people the wrong way. I’m not sure why you bring the First Amendment into what I wrote. I said I would lose my position if I cited a source that didn’t corroborate me (if it could be determined I did it intentionally), or if I ghost wrote an article and then cited it under my name, or if I allowed someone else to take credit for my work. Politics or personal feelings have nothing to do with it. We are told to report our students who turn in work under another’s name. I would not lose my position for exercising my rights to free speech, but I would for the things mentioned above. You simply assume that I, like the university, question his scholarship based on his politics. I don’t. Let him say what he feels he needs to, and it isn’t my right to get in the way. If I want to disagree with that sort of thing, I should do it in the spirit of academic discourse.

    Also Tony, please do not presume to put words into my mouth or thoughts in my head. I do not have such feelings and I disagree with people who do. Perhaps some who think WC is a fraud do so as you describe, but the “broad strokes” you accused me of painting at the beginning of your response came back to discredit you at the end of it. I work in one of the most diverse departments in my university, and I appreciate and like my colleagues very much. You made a silly assumption about me based upon a relatively short post and in so doing, did the very thing you accused me of. Seriously, we can disagree on things that we are passionate about without resorting to personal attacks. Do not assume you know or understand my politics or my university experiences because I happen to take one particular side of an issue.

    Hue, I disagree with your “circumstantial ad hominem” assertion. Not circumstantial. Documented. Again, if you think my sources are faulty, so be it. Driven by a lack of reason? That confuses me. I believed at the outset of the trial that there was not a “pure” witch hunt, but that the allegations of wrongdoing became glaring as a result of the publicity WC got, not because they simply wanted Churchill gone. However, the university’s witnesses did not generally acquit themselves well, and so now I believe that it was a witch hunt. Likewise however, Churchill’s witnesses didn’t always convince me, including one who maintains that making up a story constitutes fact. Based on Churchill’s failure to explain some of these issues, I maintain that he did engage in academic fraud. Not ad homenem. I interpreted what I read. Some of the facts changed my mind. Some did not. I am indeed passionate about academics but that does not make me incapable of reason.

    Peter, I appreciate that you responded to something I did mean to say, Sangamon State being defunct. I am aware that it became the University of Illinois-Springfield, but it is essentially not the “same” university (others have also called it defunct). Either way, though, this was tangential to my argument.

    I do apologize for the long post. I wanted to point out that I have yet to see anyone who responded to me respond with hard evidence contradicting my opinions. All I get are “you’re wrong” and even a personal attack in one instance. Perhaps I asked for it by posting in the first place. I am an opinionated person, as are most of the people here, and I know I am not dealing with a bunch of idiots. So I wanted to engage in a discussion. If this was the wrong place for that then my apologies for doing so. I didn’t post here to flame or make enemies. Just wanted to state an opinion for discussion. Something I care about.

    Hoping that this will generate healthy discussion of differing opinions out in the world,

    -CC

  18. James Benjamin said on April 26th, 2009 at 12:54pm #

    At this point the abundant evidence that the allegations of academic fraud were at best spurious. In the recent wrongful termination lawsuit, it became clear that the jury never bought the arguments that CU tried to make in its defense. Had it not been for some controversial statements that Prof. Churchill had made regarding 9/11, odds are that no one would have even bothered to concoct any allegations of academic misconduct. I see the issue of ghostwriting come up in this thread as one example of “misconduct” and yet I’m not exactly clear that it is a non-legitimate practice, nor is it clear that Churchill did anything wrong when citing said material. I’ve gone to the trouble of asking – without referencing the CU charges against Churchill – the following question to a number of personal friends, acquaintances, family, and students: if person X ghostwrites a manuscript for person Y and person Y signs off on that manuscript (hence publishing the manuscript in his or her own name) would you cite person X or person Y when subsequently referencing that manuscript in your own research? The unanimous answer has been that the appropriate person to cite would be person Y. In my own field, psychology, the issue isn’t even addressed in the APA publication manual as far as I can tell. We can certainly quibble about whether that is an ideal practice – personally it’s not my cup of tea – but as near as I can tell, unless there is some specific proscription against ghostwriting within one’s particular academic discipline, I see no point in even fussing about those who choose to do so.

    As far as the various other charges against Churchill, they quickly fell apart under scrutiny from actual experts in Churchill’s particular field of inquiry. There may indeed be some legitimate areas of debate regarding various historical events that have occurred during the American Holocaust – but those are debates that would ordinarily be carried out in academic conferences, colloquia, peer-review journals, and of course books (be they marketed for professional or lay audiences). If it turns out that a particular claim made by Churchill ends up factually incorrect, it should be falsified in one of those particular forums.

    I get that there are a number of folks, some of whom are legitimate readers of DV and others who troll this site whenever the topic of Churchill is brought up, who for whatever reason do not like Churchill personally and/or do not like what he has to say. To those individuals it would be high time to remind them that those are not legitimate reasons to go on a fishing expedition in order to subsequently terminate his employment.

    Finally, although I’m heartened that Churchill thus far has achieved a partial victory, I will breathe a bit easier if the judge presiding over his case rules in favor of reinstating him to his faculty position at CU. From what I’ve gathered, legal precedent should be in his favor, but as we know, we’re living in an era where the temptation is to sweep aside precedents for the sake of political correctness.