Interim Chancellor Philip DiStefano has caved in to the forces of oppression and patriotic conformity and has recommended the firing of Ward Churchill, a tenured professor. The so-called rationale for this outrage and direct threat to the tenure system is a conclusion of a faculty investigating committee that Professor Churchill plagiarized his research.
This may or may not be true but it never would have been investigated or enabled had he not been the subject of national vilification for comparing September 11 casualties to “Little Eichmann’s.” This is protected speech and it is essential that professors not be fired for it. In addition, Mr Churchill has denied any academic misconduct and will appeal this decision. Let history judge the University of Colorado as persecuting a professor for his political beliefs and using charges of plagiarism as a means to fire him.
Had he committed plagiarism, he could have been punished in a variety of ways short of outright dismissal–reduction in rank, reduction in salary, suspension (but that can only be if immediate harm is imminent), and perhaps reverting to probationary status. Yet firing a tenured faculty member, given his courageous efforts to condemn and critique American foreign relations and its genocidal treatment of Native-American peoples, is symptomatic of a nation that is increasingly becoming undemocratic and dismissive of first-amendment protections.
"We want to protect academic freedom and freedom of expression," DiStefano said at a news conference in Boulder. "However … we take research misconduct very seriously."
Churchill's attorney, David Lane, said the move was no surprise and vowed to fight the termination in a federal lawsuit.
"For a year and a half, they've been looking for good excuses to fire Ward Churchill for his free speech," Lane said.
"He will be fired, and I trust a jury of his peers in court to see through this sham."
Churchill has 10 business days to appeal the decision to a faculty panel, which can make a separate recommendation on Churchill's fate.
The university system's Board of Regents will make the final decision.
The controversy began in January 2005, when Churchill was scheduled to speak at a New York college. Its student newspaper unearthed his 2001 essay, which called the Pentagon and its occupants "military targets" and referred to the "technocratic corps" in the World Trade Center as "little Eichmanns." Adolf Eichmann was the Nazi in charge of administering the Jews' extermination in the Holocaust.
Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and some regents of the University of Colorado system have called for Churchill to be fired.
An academic panel found that the controversial essay was protected speech, but that Churchill had committed research misconduct and plagiarism in his writings on Native American history.
Some members of that panel warned that firing Churchill could chill political speech on campus." Quoted sentences from: