Notes & Comments June 2007
A footnote on Ward Churchill
On the University of Colorado’s disgraced academic.
Who can forget Ward “little Eichmanns” Churchill, the “ethnic studies” professor at the University of Colorado whose odious remark comparing the victims of 9/11 to Nazi bureaucrats sparked a firestorm of eminently deserved criticism? The closer one looked into the case of Ward Churchill, the worse it got. This tenured radical had been battening on the public purse for decades—and for what? A congeries of radical political diatribes masquerading as scholarship in a bogus discipline. Much of what Churchill published was simply fabricated. Much else turned out to have been plagiarized. A university committee went to work to investigate it all and to recommend disciplinary action. On May 16, the Associated Press reported on the committee’s findings. Yes, Churchill “committed multiple acts of plagiarism, fabrication, and falsification” and his work was “below minimum standards of professional integrity.” Nevertheless, the committee recommended that he be suspended for a year, not fired. Why? Because although his case “shows misbehavior,” it does not show “the worst possible misbehavior.” Yes, that’s right: you can be mad, bad, and dangerous to know—you can lie, fabricate research, plagiarize, and turn your college classroom into a center for anti-American propaganda: all that’s just fine. So long as you are not the worst, your tenure at the University of Colorado is inviolable. Or so the committee’s report suggests. But wait: what would count as “the worst”? According to the AP story, the report mentions fabricating data for grant money or endangering people’s lives by not following appropriate research protocols. But surely that betrays a stunning lack of imagination. What about arson, mass murder, or widespread mayhem? Most people would agree such activities are worse than fabricating data to get a grant, which by definition means that such fabrication is not the worst possible behavior. Sancta simplissima! Has it come to this at the University of Colorado?
By the time you read this, Hank Brown, the university’s president, will have decide whether to accept the committee’s recommendations. He might decide to fire Churchill anyway. He might decided to do nothing. If he recommends any punishment, Churchill’s lawyer has warned, Churchill will file a civil rights lawsuit. Our advice? Fire Ward Churchill and let him sue. So what if he wins? You will have done the right thing.
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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 25 Number 10, on page 1
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