University of Colorado fires controversial professor
The Boulder, Colo., school's regents say Ward Churchill was dismissed over fraud and plagiarism, not a post-9/11 essay.
BOULDER, Colo. — The University of Colorado on Tuesday fired professor Ward L. Churchill, whose controversial statements comparing victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to Nazis triggered a debate over free speech and scholarship.
The university system's regents insisted that their decision was unrelated to Churchill's 2001 essay that called workers in the World Trade Center "little Eichmanns," a reference to Nazi Adolf Eichmann, who was in charge of sending Jews to death camps.
They said they were acting because a faculty committee had found that Churchill, 59, a tenured professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, had committed plagiarism and fraudulent research in other writings.
"I'm not sure we had much of a choice," said University of Colorado President Hank Brown, whose recommendation to dismiss Churchill was upheld by the regents. "The integrity of our research is an integral part of our university."
But Churchill and his backers argued that the move was motivated by a dislike for the leftist professor's views, and that it would keep other professors from discussing unpopular subjects. "This is a political firing with academic camouflage," said Tom Mayer, a sociology professor.
Churchill's attorney, David Lane, said he'd file a lawsuit in Denver court today challenging the dismissal as a violation of the 1st Amendment. The message of the university's action, he said, "is there will be a payback for free speech."
The controversy began in 2005, when Churchill was slated to speak at Hamilton College in New York. Critics seized on a little-read essay he wrote after the Sept. 11 attacks titled "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens." In it, he argued that workers in the World Trade Center were "a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire," and compared them to the Nazi leader who carried out superiors' orders for genocide.
Churchill was roundly attacked on the Internet and television, and his speech was canceled. The University of Colorado's Board of Regents apologized for the essay and the then-governor of Colorado called for Churchill to be fired. He was not, but did step down as chairman of the university's ethnic studies department.
The school launched an investigation of allegations that Churchill's writings on genocide of Native Americans involved research fraud. Last year, a panel found several problems in Churchill's writings, and its findings were accepted by two other faculty panels. Last month, Brown recommended Churchill's dismissal.
"We were guided by the findings of three faculty committees and 25 tenured faculty members," regents Chairwoman Patricia Hayes said of the board's decision.
After an all-day closed-door deliberation, the regents voted 8 to 1 to accept Brown's recommendation that Churchill be dismissed. In their motion, they emphasized that they supported academic freedom.
Dozens of Churchill backers, some wearing T-shirts reading "I Am Ward Churchill," booed and cursed when the vote was announced. At a news conference afterward, Churchill criticized the findings against him as fraudulent and said he was staying in Boulder and fighting to regain his position.
Good riddance. Boulder, truly wonderful town BTW, is full of people just like him... including plenty of "Gucci hippies". Entertaining I suppose and I am a defender of free speech, but a raving idiot shouldn't be teaching students at a university... he can rant and rave on Pearl Street with the rest of the freaks.
Yeah, glad this guy is gone. I think all the attention he got inspired other like minded teachers to begin using their classes for activism. One of my professors not only looks like this guy, but is just as loony. I've been trying to get the local news after this guy all quarter.
The attitudes and comments expressed and made in this thread are extremely distressing.
As a resident of a Boulder, I will dismiss the comments made about the "hippies." Obviously you have not spent time in Boulder in the past five years: the hippies are all but gone. Look at the average price of a 4-bedroom here in Boulder. $1 mil will get you a "fixer-upper" downtown.
Boulder is becoming the haven of yuppie 30-something Front Range aristocrats -- professionals who have eschewed the suburban sprawl of Denver after having made their fortunes in the nascent tech industry.
As per his comments about 9/11, fine, they were inappropriate. However, I'm willing to bet many of you worship Hunter S. Thompson. Shall I quote one of his many essays in which he beseeches American citizens to revolt against the "Nazi American state"?
Churchill served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, if that means anything to you.
His comments were protected Free Speech. Perhaps if he were a Scientologist in Germany, or a journalist in Spain mocking the "royal" family, such comments would not be tolerated. But here in the U.S., he had every right to said what he did and more.
Furthermore, he was a tenured professor. The point of the tenured professorship is to enable individuals such as Churchill to be as outlandish as possible in the spirit of academic freedom. To challenge, through discourse, mainstream thought.
Churchill was canned under the guise of plagiarism. However, his inconsistencies are not technical, they are philosophical. Churchill sought to disseminate his revisionist history only insofar as it subverted dominant paradigms of contemporary social histories vis a vis the Native American community.
He NEVER claimed to be a historian, nor were his publications distributed as such. Nothing he wrote was ever submitted for peer-review, and it was very clear to everyone in the CU academic community that he was an extreme left-wing ideologue. I've taken and audited nearly six of his classes, and he is a powerful, dynamic, and challenging speaker. I do not agree with much of what he says, but he's very popular with students and his classes fill up quickly. That alone should satisfy the vehement claim that he's a "danger" to students and a "disgrace to the academic community." What a load of tripe.
He got in trouble because he submitted all his work as fact. This does NOT constitute plagiarism. However, it has been construed as such because he went against everything the academy stood for and shouted from the rooftops along the way.
He was fired because he was a difficult and powerful leader of unpopular social causes.
It is the first sign of a failing democracy when we start canning these individuals. How callous and hypocritical of you all to advance cause of the infamous Danish cartoonist while screaming bloody murder at Ward Churchill.