A.C.L.U. and Tom Mayer Support Professor Ward Churchill in his battle with University of Colorado Regents

Defending Freedom of Speech and Ward Churchill

D-Day in the struggle to defend free speech is Tuesday July 24. On that day the Regents of the University of Colorado will meet on the Boulder campus to decide whether or not to fire Ward Churchill. Despite a lot of academic camouflage, Professor Churchill is in severe danger of being fired because he is an outspoken critic of imperialism and has developed a radical iconoclastic interpretation of Native American history. Churchill is an important scholar and activist. He has written or edited about twenty books, and is probably the most widely read author at the University of Colorado. He is exactly the kind of public intellectual that academic freedom and constitutional safeguards for freedom of speech should protect.

If Ward Churchill is fired, it will be an enormous blow to dissenting scholarship of all kinds. The quality of higher education will also be imperiled because teachers will become hesitant to advocate unorthodox points of view in the classroom. Firing Ward Churchill will threaten diversity in higher education at the University of Colorado and elsewhere. The victims of racist oppression will quickly understand that the full story of their persecution cannot be told without dire consequences for the narrator.

On the morning and afternoon of July 24, rallies to defend freedom of speech and secure justice for Ward Churchill will be held on the Boulder campus of C.U. The morning rally from 7:30am to 9:30am coincides with the start of the Regents meeting. The afternoon rally from 3:30pm to 5:30pm takes place at the conclusion of the Regents meeting when a decision about Professor Churchill will be announced. We (the faculty, student, staff, and townspeople organizers) think that national media will be present at the Regents meeting. Broad participation will show support for free speech and academic freedom. It will also make firing Ward Churchill more difficult and may forestall future attacks upon academic freedom.

The exact location of the Regents meeting remains uncertain. We will meet at 7:30am and again at 3:30pm in the plaza on the south side of the University Memorial Center (corner of Euclid and Broadway in Boulder). From there we will walk to the site of the Regents meeting carrying signs and placards. The two rallies will include short talks outside the Regents meeting, most of which is closed to the public. Please make an effort to attend either the morning or the afternoon demonstration (or both). This is a local issue which has profound national and even international consequences. Your presence at the rally can make a real difference.

On behalf of the organizing committee,

Tom Mayer


ACLU and ACLU of Colorado urge University of Colorado
Board of Regents not to fire Professor Ward Churchill

July 19, 2007

In an open letter to the University of Colorado Board of Regents released today, the A.C.L.U. and the A.C.L.U. of Colorado urged the Board to reject the recommendation of C.U. President Hank Brown to terminate Professor Ward Churchill. President Brown’s decision ran counter to the majority of the Appeals Panel of the Privilege and Tenure Committee, which concluded that dismissal was not warranted.

National A.C.L.U. Executive Director Anthony Romero (of the A.C.L.U.) and Cathryn Hazouri, Executive Director of the A.C.L.U. of Colorado noted the highly charged political nature of the public uproar over Professor Churchill’s essay about the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. They stated that the “poisoned atmosphere in which this investigation was launched…[has] irretrievably tainted the process. The investigation of Professor Churchill’s scholarship cannot be separated from the indefensible lynch-mob furor that generated the initial calls for his termination.”

“The cure for unpopular speech is public debate,” says Hazouri, “not silencing a voice you don’t want to hear. Professor Churchill’s critics didn’t call for an investigation; they called for him to be fired. When those critics include the Governor and politicians with influence over the University budget, it’s impossible to conduct an impartial investigation.”

The letter warns that firing Professor Churchill over the results of an investigation triggered by his unpopular views which are clearly protected by the First Amendment creates a dangerous precedent when it comes to repressing academic freedom and chilling public debate.


To the members of the University of Colorado Board of Regents:

Later this month, the Board of Regents will meet to consider a recommendation, made by University of Colorado President Hank Brown, that Professor Ward Churchill’s employment be terminated.

We write on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union–an organization long dedicated to preserving the principles of the First Amendment and academic freedom–to urge you to reject this recommendation.

The investigation of Professor Churchill’s scholarship is the result of widespread publicity in early 2005 about certain unpopular views Professor Churchill expressed several years earlier in an essay about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Prominent public officials, including members of the legislature and the then-Governor of Colorado, quickly called for Professor Churchill’s termination. The Board of Regents called an emergency meeting, at which the Chancellor announced his plan for an immediate investigation of all of Professor Churchill’s writing and speeches to determine whether they provided any grounds for dismissal.

It is undisputed, however, that Professor Churchill’s views are protected by the First Amendment and cannot serve as a legal basis for any adverse employment action. Nevertheless, the University soon launched the investigation of Professor Churchill’s scholarship in an effort to find more defensible grounds for sanctioning him.

The investigative committee found six charges of research misconduct to be sustained. The Appeals Panel of the Privilege and Tenure Committee concluded that only three of those were valid. Only one member of the five-member investigative committee believed that dismissal was an appropriate sanction, and a majority of the appeals panel concluded that termination was not warranted. Despite these conclusions, the University President has recommended termination, thus urging the same result as the elected officials who publicly called for Professor Churchill’s termination in 2005. The current Governor of Colorado has now added his voice to those clamoring for Professor
Churchill to be fired.

We believe the poisoned atmosphere in which this investigation was launched, and the circumstances under which it was initiated, have irretrievably tainted the process. The investigation of Professor Churchill’s scholarship cannot be separated from the
indefensible lynch-mob furor that generated the initial calls for his termination. Firing Professor Churchill in these circumstances does not send a message about academic rigor and standards of professional integrity. On the contrary, it sends a warning to the academic community that politically unpopular dissenters speak out at their peril.

Accepting President Brown’s recommendation in these circumstances poses too great a risk that other members of the academic community will respond by choosing to silence themselves or temper the public expression of their views out of fear that they, too,
will be subjected to detailed fishing expeditions and censure. Such a result not only undermines academic freedom, it also diminishes the range and breadth of public debate that is vital to a flourishing democracy. We urge you to reject President Brown’s

Anthony Romero
Cathryn Hazouri
Executive Director Executive Director
ACLU ACLU of Colorado


{Ed: Additional observation of sender of the e-mail.}

Here is a clear example of what I have been warning about with respect to inordinate right wing influence on the nation’s higher education system (see article below). Anne Neal who directs Lynne Cheney’s American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) has been appointed by the Bush Administration to the nation’s Accreditation Review Panel.

Cheney, ACTA and Neal think nearly all higher ed institutions in the country are too liberal and should have their curricula radically scaled back to technical basics and an elective pallet that extols the wondrous achievements and virtues of western
civilization and America. Ethnic, gender, environmental and ‘revisionist’ social studies would be eliminated while classrooms are micro-managed for appropriate content. This is the same Anne Neal who has been lobbying hard for the professional execution of Ward Churchill. Several of ACTA’s members and allies, including the CU President, and some high-level CU administrators, regents and state administrators, are shaping Colorado higher education into their preferred model of a top-down, commercially oriented, ideologically driven font of marketable intellectual property and highly skilled and compliant worker bees for corporations, government and the military.

If you want a larger context within which to justify opposition to Churchill’s firing, this is it. His dismissal will significantly strengthen insidious right wing influence at C.U., in Colorado and nationally. Meanwhile, these same forces are coopting the nation’s academy right under the nose of America’s faculty, as many try to avoid fallout from
right wing inspired imbroglios such as those surrounding Churchill, De Paul’s Norman Finkelstein and other less visible targets.

Now is the time for all C.U. faculty who value liberal education to stand up and organize, starting with opposition to the fraudulent persecution and pending dismissal of Ward Churchill.

Critic Appointed to Accreditation Review Panel
By Gwendolyn Bradley for AAUP Academe Online

Anne Neal, executive director of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, has been appointed to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, a panel that reviews accrediting agencies for the U.S. Department of Education. Neal has been a harsh critic of the accreditation system. In her 2006 testimony to the Secretary of Education’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education, she proposed that the accreditation process be eliminated, saying that “Under the accreditors’ watch, colleges have allowed academic standards to slide, grade inflation to mount, and accountability to suffer.” The commission, headed by Charles Miller, later issued a report that was critical of accreditation and of academia in general; it proposed that higher education should become more “efficient” through cost cutting and “productivity improvements,” and recommended reducing barriers for transfer students, instituting performance benchmarks, and encouraging new education providers, including forprofit institutions and long-distance learning.

Critics have charged that appointments to the review panel have been stacked against the existing system of accreditation. According to an analysis published by Inside Higher Ed, the fifteen-member panel includes, in addition to Neal, three recent appointees with
close ties to the White House, two who served as advisers to the chair of the education secretary’s higher education commission, and three members representing for-profit higher education, when only about 7 percent of all students attend institutions in that sector. The panel’s makeup is important because it judges the performance of accrediting agencies, which largely determine whether the students of particular postsecondary institutions are eligible for federal financial aid.

This entry was posted in Academia/Academic Freedom. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply