Ward Churchill Alert
Justice Felix Frankfurter: "One of the prerogatives of American citizenship is the right to criticize public men (and women) and measures – and that means not only informed and responsible criticism but the freedom to speak…without moderation." Baumgartner v. United States, (1944).
As you probably know, the University of Colorado Interim Chancellor announced on 6/26/06 his intention to fire Ward Churchill. As we said in our Open Letter 15 months ago:
“The issues here have nothing to do with the quality of Ward Churchill’s scholarship or his professional credentials. However one views his choice of words or specific arguments, he is being put in the dock solely for his radical critique of U.S. history and present-day policy in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001. Apparently, 9/11 is now the third rail of American intellectual life: to critically probe into its causes and to interrogate the international role of the United States is treated as heresy; those inquiring can be denied forums, careers, and even personal safety…
“The Churchill case is not an isolated incident but a concentrated example of a well-orchestrated campaign launched in the name of ‘academic freedom’ and ‘balance’ which in fact aims to purge the universities of more radical thinkers and oppositional thought generally, and to create a climate of intimidation….”
As we’ve been emphasizing, it would be hard to overstate the serious nature of what has already happened, let alone what it would mean should the Regents fire Churchill. If this assault on academe succeeds, the consequences will be bad and threatening for American society as a whole.
Professor Churchill has appealed the decision to CU’s Privilege and Tenure Committee, and Natsu Saito, his wife, predicts we have about 2 months to shine a light nationally on this outrage. We have just heard (and are still trying to confirm) that the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies passed a resolution supporting Ward and condemning the university’s recent actions at their national conference in Mexico this month. We need a lot more of this kind of sunshine.
On our website – http://www.defendcriticalthinking.org/ — we are calling for people to send letters of condemnation to the CU Chancellor and the Regents; to write to professional publications such as Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Education and others, and to contact the AAUP and other associations expressing your concern and calling on them to oppose this decision, and to write letters and op ed pieces to newspapers large and small. And to mount a movement to reverse the dangerous direction into which American political and intellectual life is being dragged.
No matter what the formal pretext, Churchill is being fired not for his footnotes but for the content of his thinking, his inquiry, and his speech. In that light, the decision of a faculty investigative committee to carry out such a politically loaded investigation has done far greater harm, and constitutes a much greater danger, than whatever evidence of faulty footnotes or minor plagiarism they might have found. As for the substance of their findings, we urge everyone to look at “The Report on Ward Churchill” that Professor Tom Mayer of the Sociology Dept. at CU wrote, after closely studying the committee’s findings, which determined that the “central flaw in the report is grotesque exaggeration” of the magnitude and gravity of Churchill’s errors. In fact, this kind of investigation of faculty members would quickly empty academic departments if it were carried out.
Mayer goes on to say “If any of the sanctions recommended by the investigating committee are put into effect, it will constitute a stunning blow to academic freedom. Such punishment will show that a prolific, provocative, and highly influential thinker can be singled out for entirely political reasons; subjected to an arduous interrogation virtually guaranteed to find problems; and then severed from academic employment.”
We at www.defendcriticalthinking.org would like to hear your thoughts and ideas around how to mount the most powerful response to this decision.
Norma Alarcon Professor Emeritus University of California, Berkeley
Mona Baker Professor of Translation Studies
Centre for Translation & Intercultural Studies University of Manchester, UK
University of Colorado, Boulder
Professor, Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sandi E Cooper
Professor of History
College of Staten Island and The Graduate School – CUNY
Roger S. Gottlieb
Professor of Philosophy Department of Humanities and Arts Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Book Review Editor: Capitalism, Nature, Socialism: A Journal of Socialist Ecology Contributing Editor, Tikkun Magazine
Assoc. Prof. English
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Professor Dept. of Communication & Culture
Indiana University, Bloomington
Professor of Journalism
University of Texas – Austin.
Dean of Faculty
Peter N. Kirstein
Professor of History
St. Xavier University.
Chair, South Asian Studies
University of California Los Angeles
Steven L. Leeper
World Conference of Mayors for Peace
Carlos Munoz, Jr. Professor Emeritus Department of Ethnic Studies
University of California Berkeley
Department of American Studies
University of Hawai’i at Manoa
University of California San Diego
Benjamin Whitmer Adjunct Faculty Ethnic Studies University of Colorado at Boulder
Professor, Anthropology and American Indian Studies
University of Washington
James Craven/Omahkohkiaayo i’poyi
Professor, Economics; Chairman, Business Division, Clark College
Member, Blackfoot Nation
Biographical Subject in Marquis “Who’s Who in: The World; America; The
West; Science and Engineering; Finance and Industry; American Education”