Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ward Churchill, Free Speech, and Academic Freedom


There has, as yet, been no interest in discussing Homeland Security. Perhaps that's not edgy enough. Very well, how about a discussion revolving around the question:


Should the University of Colorado fire Ward Churchill?

If you don't know who Ward Churchill is or why there are many folks who think that he should be fired (and many who do not) allow me to give a quick overview. Ward Churchill is presently a tenured Professor in U of C, Boulder's Department of Ethnic Studies. He also wrote an Essay on 9/12/2001 entitled "Some People Push Back" On the Justice of Roosting Chickens in which he enumerates what he views as the United States's crimes against the rest of the world in general and against the Muslim world in particular in order to show that the attacks of 9/11 were both justified and inevitable. In this essay, he says that the Pentagon is obviously a military target and thus the attack against it was absolutely justified. He also said that, while the occupants of the Twin Towers were "civilians of a sort", they were hardly innocent, calling them "little Eichmanns"--modern day Nazis carrying out a deliberate genocidal pogrom against Islam. They were, he wrote, "willingly and knowingly" feeding the military, whose crimes he writes at length to document and were therefore also justified targets. [Post slightly edited on 2/11/05 to remove an offensive sentence].

As for my opinion, which you can read in the comments section here [note: the article and many of the comments at this site definitely do not meet the standards of discussion at Continuum and I express my opinion in this regard in the same comments section], you will find that I was definitely against firing Churchill upon First Amendment freedom of speech grounds. I find many of his comments, particularly the little Eichmanns comment, to be odious in the extreme and for this he deserves to be shunned and despised by all Americans whether within the academy or without. However, he should not, in my opinion, be fired for them. Aside from the free speech issues, the academy has long had a tradition of encouraging the exploration of competing ideas, including odious ones, through academic freedom.

Recently, however, I have become aware, through this article, of allegations that, if true, are definitely grounds, not only for firing Churchill from the U of C but for his being banned from the academy altogether. His alleged offense is academic fraud. If true (and while the charges appear to be true I am not in a position to confirm them in a "peer" sense), Churchill has made up, out of almost whole cloth, an incident of US military genocide against the Mandan Indians in 1837. The source that he cites as supporting his claim appears to do nothing of the kind. The fact that he originally made this claim in court under oath in his own defense makes his offense doubly offensive: not only has he misrepresented a source to make wholly false charges against the US military, he committed perjury in the process. He also seems to have repeated his false claims at a later date, making up new details without attribution. This is precisely the sort of action that is, and deserves to be, a virtual death sentence in the academic world.

If this proves to be true, neither the University of California nor any other University should have anything to do with Ward Churchill ever again.

Update 02/10/05: This article, too (warning, it's a long PDF file), documents Churchill's tenuous relationship with facts. Again I am no scholar and have no expertise in the area of US Government - Native American relations so I am not qualified to judge, in any peer review sense, the truth of the claims made in this article. I, rather, provide it for you're study so that you may make up your own mind whether Ward Churchill is a scholar or a fraud.

Update 02/16/05: Apparently, Ward Churchill is a plagiarist, too.
What do you think?

By the way, I will also be accepting articles concerning Homeland Security, if you'd rather talk about that. Please remember the groundrules for articles and comments, to wit:

1. I'm looking for reasoned debate, not ad hominem attack.
2. Foul language will be edited or even form grounds for rejection.
3. Articles will be expected to remain on the given topic.
4. Articles should be no longer than 1,000 to 1,500 words
5. Please frame views that do not agree with yours in positive terms
that proponents of said view use with respect to their views.

Other than that, any position on the topic is acceptable. Please submit your contributions to me at revcraigh@yahoo.com.

24 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Craig: I tracked down your blog through your screen name on one of your posts on Misha's Rottweiler. Welcome aboard! Great blog, by the way.

To me, I believe Churchill absolutely should be fired from the University of Colorado-Boulder, and in this case the freedom of speech issue is irrelevant. There is absolutely no right of subsidy inherent in the Bill of Rights, no matter how many "emanations and penumbras" that one may try to read into it. Ward Churchill is basically being paid by the taxpayers of Colorado to spread hatred, and that is intolerable. This is precisely the same sort of argument that (accurately) was made against some of the NEA's more controversial federal grants, such as those to "avant-garde "artists" such as Andres Serrano, Karen Findlay and Robert Mapplethorpe. Those people were given obscene amounts of taxpayer monies to produce obscene works of art, and frankly, "obscene" is a pretty good description of Churchill's rantings, as well. Were Churchill a member of the Nazi Party or the KKK, we would not even be having this discussion; he'd already be gone from CU...

As for the fraud allegations: Churchill's entire academic career appears to have been a fraud. He falsely claimed to be an American Indian to win a position in CU's Ethnic Studies department - and ended up running that department - and of course you've already pointed out the flaws in Churchill's one major scholarly work. This guy is the new Michael Belleiles, who perpetrated the fradulent historical gun-control study Arming America,, and who was also discredited for his fraud and ultimately fired from his tenured position at Emory University. Churchill deserves at least the same fate.

2/09/2005 07:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops. Hit the wrong button before I was finished. Oh well...

Anyway, the above post pretty much sums up what I think about the Churchill affair. I'm also inclined to think that charges of treason might not be out of order, but there are definitely some First Amendment issues there..

Thanks for your time.

Wes Seaton, aka "LC Wes"

2/09/2005 07:58:00 PM  
Blogger Craig R. Harmon said...

Wes, welcome to Continuum. My opinion concerning the first amendment and his job I've already stated. Concerning Churchill's Native American ancestry, lack of evidence is not the same as fraud and proving a negative is extremely difficult to do in cases like this. In any case, in my opinion, whether Mr. Churchill is or is not a Native American is not relevant to his continued employment at U of C.

2/09/2005 10:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you say, Churchill's Native American ancestry is not as important to his legitimacy as a teaching scholar, as is his blatant disregard to historical truth. This may or may not 'come out in the wash' yet, I do not discount the subject lightly. Self inflated blowhards are an inexpensive commodity. Those that teach their liberal lies to our youth, who swear under oath to their factual authenticity, are a pox on us all.

My congrats on your recent offer to the Imperial blogroll at AIRE. I would think you would fit nicely in the Dept. of Education section or possibly the Dept. of Politics.

Mikenchi

2/10/2005 07:10:00 AM  
Blogger Craig R. Harmon said...

Mikenchi, thanks for your comments. I hope you will return often and contribute your thoughts here at Continuum.

2/10/2005 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger frstlymil said...

As respects the issue of Free Speech - it speaks to the old saying, "I may not like what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." We are having our rights slowly but surely whittled away in that respect - free speech zones, oaths of loyalty, blah blah - but academic fraud is another matter, and if true, that is not a national debate but a disciplinary matter for the university involved. If it is a rumor started to stir the pot over his bizarre statements - then that must be investigated and the person behind it needs to pick a different windmill. Just my opinion.

2/10/2005 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger Craig R. Harmon said...

Frstlymil, I agree.

2/10/2005 05:23:00 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

I must say I haven't followed this issue very closely (although I have heard of it since all the right wing talk radio hosts can't get enough of it and I listen in on them from time to time). So I should first ask a few questions with regard to the issue that started all of this, the "little Eichmans" comment. Where Mr. Churchill's comments made in the classroom? I think I heard something about him being an ethnic studies professor. Is there anyone claiming that he was teaching this stuff in his classroom and if so to what extent? Was he forcing his students to agree with him or learn more about it in order to get a grade? Or did he not even broach the subject in his classroom? Was this simply the personal opinions of a man who happened to be a teacher? Would not that be a factor in all of this? If this was speech outside of the classroom, how can the U of C have any say over that?

Just as another thought, even if he did say these things in the classroom, is there a rule at the U of C that prohibits that or regulates his speech (as is their right)? Did he overstep university policy, and if not what grounds would the university have to fire him?

Let's think about a different example. Instapundit is well known to be a university professor. What if he were to say something like this on his blog: "EGYPT IS TRYING TO GET NUCLEAR WEAPONS, according to reports noted by Charles Johnson. And maybe Saudi Arabia, too.

You know, the arguments for a return to colonialism that I so snidely dismissed last fall are looking better all the time. I shudder to think that things may come to such a pass that Ann Coulter will be looked upon as prophetic, rather than deranged."
That statement, advocating colonialism, agreeing with Coulter about killing a country's leaders and converting its people to christiainity, is as ridiculous as anything that Mr. Churchill ever came up with. Presuming Glen kept it on the blog and didn't let that enter his classroom, there is no reason that he should be fired (unless he signed a contract with UT that specifically forbade that kind of thing). The same is true for Mr. Churchill.

Recall that it was political speech to which the founding fathers were most concerned with protecting. Barring him having broken any rules of his employment, I don't see where the U of C has any legal reason to dismiss him.

I cannot speak to the academic dishonesty. If Churchill did in fact wrongly deceive his students then that would be grounds for dismissal I imagine. However, if the case that you presented (and I haven't read it yet) is outside the classroom, then I still don't see how that is grounds for dismissal.

Now it's time to call Craig out on something. Craig, you said: "Obviously, his comments have not endeared him to 9/11 families, the Administration, indeed, anyone except militant Islam, and liberals everywhere." Again, this site is supposed to be one that attempts to stay away from invective such as this. You simultaneously linked Churchill with all liberals and linked them both to terrorists. Is that not the exact type of thing that you have repeatedly said you want to avoid?

2/11/2005 01:59:00 PM  
Blogger Craig R. Harmon said...

Mike, I can't imagine that Churchill's comments have pleased anyone but Islamic fascists, whose opinion, I have no doubt, mirrors Churchill's excactly, and the most extreme left wingers, who champion Churchill. My comment was catty, however. I'm sure there are many Liberals who are disgusted with Churchill's comments and who have no desire to see terrorists' opinions given legitimacy, therefore, I withdraw the offending portion of my post with apologies to all.

Now, if you notice, I did not call for Churchill's dismissal for his 'Little Eichmanns' comment or for the offending article that he wrote on the day after the 9/11 attacks. They were outside of the classroom. However, even if he included similar comments in his teaching, I would defend his job on the grounds of accademic freedom.

Publishing made up claims and citing sources that are then said to back up one's made up claims when they clearly do not, whether those are being taught in class or not, denigrate the intellectual integrety not only of the Professor but of the institution that employs him. I cannot believe that you would defend the continued employment of an academic fraud.

2/11/2005 02:41:00 PM  
Anonymous The_Scribe said...

Hmm... I've touched on this topic over at The Rott. While it is a free speech issue it is a defamation (unsure of spelling). The people in that plane and the people in the building are individuals and if you are to believe the prof. they are all likened unto Hilter's stooges who helped to contribute directly to genocide... and I'm quite posistive that was the direct comparison he was going for.

Do the people, the civilians, who died that day deserve that remark? not at all, A) very few of them worked for any government enity, so even if you used the arguement that they "deserved to die" for supporting Bush you'd be incorrect because many of them did not vote for Bush.
B) The comparison itself is a mix of about five fallacies, the biggest one being the strawman. He sets it up so that these people become Nazi supporters, he then "knocks it down" by proclaiming that they deserve it.
C) I've gone over a similar Proffesor who I've become almost obsessed with (I know, quite unhealthy being obessesed with someone who you can't argee with) by the name of Howard Zinn. Now, Zinn says some similar things in his speech at Reed, class struggle, but the difference is that Zinn has the consideration to not defame the people who he "accuses" of perpetuating the class struggle.

none of these points mean that he can be prosecuted by law... but the commitee that can get him fired is not a true government body, it is a business board. CU can at any time fire an employee except in cases where their contracts say otherwise. If he casts a poor light on the school and the school loses revenue or prestige over, most contracts won't cover him and he can be 'released" and in my opinion should be for horrid teaching and unprofessionalism while outside of his workplace (which he has to carry back to the classroom).

A Professor's job is not to indoctrinate a student, it is not to tell the students what to think and only give them that information. So often published papers that historians release are full of either outright lies or poor inuendos. I will admit that I have not seen Churchill's class material, but if he is anythign liek the prof. I had at my previous college, well, I'm affraid that this is old news and that he's not the first or the last of these who should be stopped from "teaching"...

2/11/2005 04:51:00 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Now, if you notice, I did not call for Churchill's dismissal for his 'Little Eichmanns' comment or for the offending article that he wrote on the day after the 9/11 attacks. They were outside of the classroom. However, even if he included similar comments in his teaching, I would defend his job on the grounds of accademic freedom.I didn't make it as clear as I should have that those statements were not directed toward you. There are others that disagreed with you and that Churchill should be fired on the basis of what he was saying. You and I appear to be in agreement on the 1st amendment issue.


Publishing made up claims and citing sources that are then said to back up one's made up claims when they clearly do not, whether those are being taught in class or not, denigrate the intellectual integrety not only of the Professor but of the institution that employs him. I cannot believe that you would defend the continued employment of an academic fraud.IF that is indeed the case. You said yourself that you can't be certain because you do not have in-depth knowledge of the facts of which he wrote. Furthermore, even assuming what he wrote was untrue (and assuming that he knew them to be untrue) I have to go out on a limb here and say that there are still only certain conditions that would warrant his dismissal. If he were teaching knowingly false information or using that information to impart a bias in the classroom, then he should be dismissed. Others have snidely implied that this guy still has his job because he's a liberal champion and a Nazi or KKK member would have lost his job by now. Besides the fact that there have been no mentions of specific instances of this happening, I have to say that if a professor were to write Nazi or KKK literature in his off time and did not inject his opinions on the subject in his classroom then they should not be fired either -- unless of course as a part of the rules of employment at the school they are barred from that kind of thing and that was made clear at the beginning.

So my short answer to you is that if the facts are that this was an extra-curricular activity (so to speak) for Mr. Churchill, then I do not feel that this has anything to do with his ability to successfully engage in the teaching of ethnic studies or the scholastic integrity of the university at all.

Essentially, the only reason that I think he should be fired is if he let his bias affect the subject he taught or the students taking his class. I will also grant you this, I am much less inclined to believe what I hear from sources with a right wing bias than you are (I have a point, that isn't a slam. I suspect you are less likely to believe information from sources with a left wing bias than I.) My point is that everything that I've heard and everything that you've linked has been from a source that ranges from right of center to (and please pardon me for saying this) absolute nutty right wing cuckoo land (that would be nicedoggy.net). So I guess you'll just have to forgive me if I have my doubts that this guy is the monster he's being made out to be and you'll have to try to understand my lack of desire to advocate giving him his walking papers until I learn more about it. Mostly I just think firing him without good cause could set a very dangerous precedent that could ultimately affect us all.

2/11/2005 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger Craig R. Harmon said...

absolute nutty right wing cuckoo landTo be fair to me, I linked that only because it was there that I defended Churchill's job on First Amendment grounds. It was not linked to as a resource, per se.

2/11/2005 11:41:00 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

To The-Scribe...

While it is a free speech issue it is a defamation (unsure of spelling).You got the spelling right. It seems that you're kind of trying to build a bit of a legal reason that Churchill should be fired. The legal definition of defamation is "Any derogatory statement which is designed to injure a person's business or reputation. Defamation can be accomplished as libel or slander." Defamation would be something like falsely saying that Joe Schmuckatelli is a child molester with the intent of hurting his business or ruining his character in the community.

Churchill's statement was derogatory for sure, but you would be hard pressed to legally show that his intentions were to ruin 3000 people's business or reputation. Now, I've only had one law class, but I'd say there would be a long uphill battle to get him on defamation. That means this is a first amendment case.

The people in that plane and the people in the building are individuals and if you are to believe the prof. they are all likened unto Hilter's stooges who helped to contribute directly to genocide... and I'm quite posistive that was the direct comparison he was going for.Actually, I think he was mostly talking about the people who worked in the WTC and not those who were on the planes. He did say that the Pentagon is the center of our military so that was an obvious choice for a target. Surely you can't deny that? I guarantee you that the pentagon is the top target for every country who has a war plan against us. Why should non-state entities be different?

I think what Churchill was getting at (crassly and without elaboration) was that the WTC was seen throughout the world as the symbolic center of globalization. Churchill's point was that globalization has caused immense suffering and death in the world (for examples of how read No Logo and Jihad vs McWorld among others) and those who worked in the towers were complicit in that globalization. Now, am I convinced that they deserved to die? Of course not (I am similarly not convinced that we need to go and try to kill all the world's terrorists). I think that with the proper government oversight and international cooperation the harmful effects of both globalization and religious extremism (that is to say that we can - or perhaps we must - take action about both jihad and McWorld ... but I digress).

Churchill goes a great deal further than I think is necessary and he argues this point in such a way as to automatically label himself (and unfortunately anyone who believes the core message I mentioned above) as a loon. For that, I wish he'd just shut up and let those who have better people skills do the talking since he's causing more harm than good. But I don't think that this opinion of his should get him fired from any job (except for maybe the military but we have different rules about all of this).

A) very few of them worked for any government enity, so even if you used the arguement that they "deserved to die" for supporting Bush you'd be incorrect because many of them did not vote for Bush.I went over this above a bit but Churchill doesn't think that they deserve to die because of what the US Government has done. He thinks that they make an obvious target for terrorists because of the things that they and the companies that they represent are complicit in.

B) The comparison itself is a mix of about five fallacies, the biggest one being the strawman. He sets it up so that these people become Nazi supporters, he then "knocks it down" by proclaiming that they deserve it.Truth be told, you set his argument up as something that it wasn't (i.e. that he thought all Bush supporters should die) and are attempting to knock that down - the strawman. I am not convinced that you have really taken the time to understand what he is getting at.

C) I've gone over a similar Proffesor who I've become almost obsessed with by the name of Howard Zinn. Now, Zinn says some similar things in his speech at Reed, class struggle, but the difference is that Zinn has the consideration to not defame the people who he "accuses" of perpetuating the class struggle.Howard Zinn is a fascinating man and a terrific scholar ... and a juicy target for the right. If you haven't read his works (like "The People's History of the United States") perhaps you should. My gut instinct is that you are getting too much of your information about the left from those who are on the right which would explain your obsession. Of course you may have read every word Zinn has written and completed a Doctoral thesis on him for all I know. If so I'd be more than happy to read it. I'm just saying that sometimes people need to be heard fully before you start to discredit them.

unprofessionalism while outside of his workplace (which he has to carry back to the classroom).The key here is outside the workplace. If his statements are outside the workplace only, then he should not be let go. Setting a precedent that allows businesses fire people because of things that they say outside of the workplace is dangerous and could come back to haunt us all. Life in the US will be a great deal worse off if your freedom of speech is limited to only those topics that your employer agrees with.

You say that he "has to carry [his unprofessionalism] back to the classroom" but you don't know that for certain. Unless you have first-hand knowledge that is merely speculation (and probably closer to libel than things that Churchill said ironically). I am certain that the U of C has periodic reviews of its professors and probably even post class surveys for the students to fill out. Churchill isn't a spring chicken, we know he's been there for a while since he's the head of his department - or he was at least. Obviously, the school has judged him fit and unbiased (since being unbiased is a central tenant of teaching). My point is that if the school has been observing him for 15 or 20 years (I don't know how long he's been there) and has seen fit to promote him to the department head status the "obvious unprofessionalism and bias" thing doesn't hold water. You aren't insinuating this to be a conspiracy by the U of C to install a liberal bias into the classroom are you?

You admit in your last paragraph that you don't know what Churchill is teaching or how he teaches it. That is a good first step. The logical next step would be to say that if he teaches a certain way or with a bias or as unprofessionally as you view his work to be then he should be fired.

2/11/2005 11:49:00 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

absolute nutty right wing cuckoo land To be fair to me, I linked that only because it was there that I defended Churchill's job on First Amendment grounds. It was not linked to as a resource, per se.Fair enough.

2/11/2005 11:51:00 PM  
Blogger Craig R. Harmon said...

Mike, you said:
you would be hard pressed to legally show that his intentions were to ruin 3000 people's business or reputation.

I think that you would be hard pressed to show that anyone who publishes a paper calling people "Little Eichmanns" was not doing so in order to injure their reputations, at least if a person's reputation legally survives the person. I can't think of any context in which such a statement would not have such a design. In any case, libel is a crime and shouldn't be too difficult to prove in court, particularly if the plainiffs are several thousand 9/11 family members bringing suit on behalf of their dead. Again, I'm not sure that reputation survives a person's death. If not, then I guess the dead can not be defamed or libelled.

2/12/2005 01:16:00 AM  
Blogger Craig R. Harmon said...

Oh, and Mike, some of the people here, including myself, are regulars at nicepuppy.com. These people are passionately and unapologetically right-wing. The rhetoric found there is, I admit, over the top and I do not agree with every opinion expressed there (and I tell them so) but absolute nutty right wing cuckoo land really is the sort of invective, to borrow your word, that is verboten here at Continuum. They are notoriously thick-skinned. Nevertheless, think whatever you will but, as you occasionally remind me, remember our groundrules.

2/12/2005 01:27:00 AM  
Blogger Craig R. Harmon said...

er, that's nicedoggie.net.

2/12/2005 01:34:00 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Meh, I appologized when I said it. Anti Idolitarian Rottweiler is a site that prides itself on being over the top. It is their modus operandi to be crass to the point of having zero credibility. It is more than just a style issue at that site and that is the point that I wanted to convey efficiently.

About Churchill and libel (or was it slander, maybe both?): Honestly, do you think comments by him had any realistic effect on the reputations of those who died on 9/11? I mean, it has to be more than intent for it to be libel or slander. Yeah, if I say bad things about someone, I generally mean them to be injurous but that doesn't mean that they actually do cause demonstrable injury to someone's reputation or ability to earn money. Churchill's statements may have hurt some feelings and plenty of people think they were unpatriotic but there's hardly any reason to think they caused any real damage. If anything he only damaged his reputation and injured his own ability to earn money by saying all of that.

Sorry, there's still nothing to the defamation angle.

2/12/2005 02:56:00 AM  
Blogger Karass said...

WOW WOW WOW. hm...I'll have to really think about this before writing a thought out comment. Just wanted to leave you one now to let you know I'm reading your blog.

2/12/2005 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Craig R. Harmon said...

Jin,
Thanks for stopping by. I notice that you are a 3rd year law student. I look forward to your comments.

2/12/2005 02:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple of comments:

1. If he identified himself as a U of C prof and is talking about a subject in his supposed area of academic expertise, it's not "outside the workplace", it's part of his job, and so exactly the same as has he given that as a lecture in class.

2. I'm a strong supporter of academic freedom, but that does not include the freedom to hold opinions that you know to be false. Churchill is pushing the boundaries of this with his Eichmann comment. I will note here that describing the Pentagon as a legitimate target is entirely correct. It's not so legitimate to use a planeload of civilians as a missile, though.

3. If even 10% of the academic fraud allegations are true, he should never work in academia again.

2/12/2005 02:44:00 PM  
Blogger Craig R. Harmon said...

Anonymous (the most recent one), concerning your #2, I would distinguish between holding opinions one knows to be false and publishing said opinions. One can hold whatever opinions one wants...there are no thought police...yet. Publishing what one knows to be untrue is altogether different. I assume that you were talking about published, not held, opinions.

Otherwise, I agree.

2/12/2005 03:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Craig:

Pretty much. I do think that holding opinions that you know to be false is intellectual dishonesty of the highest degree, and so a rather bad sign on an academic, who is supposedly paid to think straight. If you don't publicize them, nobody will know, though.

2/13/2005 04:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Churchill has the right to express his opinion. So do u. most of what he said is tru but some i do not agree on. BTW im reffering to "Some People Push Back" He doesnt need to be fired. You folks are nuts, hes the man. Go Ward!

10/04/2005 10:32:00 PM  

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