Ward Churchill Trial Against C.U. Begins Today

Ex-tenured University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill finally gets his day in court. His lawsuit against the University begins today in Denver District Court.
Churchill was hired by the university in 1978 and in 1991 became a full-time professor with tenure in the ethnic-studies department. He eventually became chairman. Churchill, who has published several books and articles, has received writing and university awards for his teaching.
Then someone came across an essay he had written mentioning 9/11. "He says the essay was taken out of context." [More...]

In January 2005, Churchill's essay "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens" was picked up by local and national media, particularly one line that compared some victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to Nazis.

The essay was published in 2001 on an obscure Internet site and went virtually unnoticed for more than three years.

C.U. then decided to go after every word he had written, in hopes of finding something that would justify his firing.

"In response to the unprecedented outcry against Ward Churchill over the 9/11 essay he wrote, the University vowed to examine every word ever written or spoken by Professor Churchill in an effort to find some excuse for terminating his employment," attorney David Lane wrote in Churchill's lawsuit.

Churchill was fired July 24, 2007, after university committees examined his scholarly writings and determined that he had engaged in plagiarism and academic fraud. The university regents voted 8-1 for his termination.

The issues:

The jury will be asked to consider two claims: that the university retaliated against Chur chill first by launching an investigation into his academic rec ord and then by firing him. Churchill, 61, is seeking reinstatement and a financial judgment.

Churchill has one of Denver's best First Amendment lawyer on his side, David Lane.

"He is looking forward to having his day in court finally in a public forum so the public can hear what this witch hunt was all about," Lane said.
I'm rooting for Churchill...and David.

The Race to the Bottom, a collaborative effort of law professors and students, will be live-blogging the trial here.

< CA Could Lead Our Way Out of the Depression: Legalize Marijuana | Does WaPo Know There Is A Depression Going On? >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Color me "don't care". (5.00 / 2) (#13)
    by LarryInNYC on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 11:57:31 AM EST
    Churchill is the poster child for so-called social science ejaculated from Onanistic University departments throughout the country, and the world.

    Having granted him tenure, the University should not be able to fire him for expressing his views, reprehensible as they may be.  But if he actually does have a history of academic misconduct (which, at least according to the quoted material, is not disputed) then he can lump it, as far as I'm concerned.  If there's no real academic misconduct, the University should not be able to dump him.

    But the number of injustices in the world I can bring myself to care about before I give a crap about Churchill is almost infinite.

    "onanistic" Thanks: new word. (none / 0) (#15)
    by oculus on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 12:01:59 PM EST
    I'm going to follow this case closely. (none / 0) (#1)
    by jeffinalabama on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 03:39:26 AM EST
    thanks for the link to the live blog.

    Amazing (none / 0) (#2)
    by NYShooter on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 05:37:47 AM EST
    Churchill should have known better;

    He asked his students to think.

    Commodity traders, sitting in front of computer screens, in little booths, isolated, high up in a skyscraper. They push a button, and millions of dollars of food, lumber, grain, copper leap into action.

    Mine, plantation, and factory owners push another button, and millions of dollars are piled into vaults thousands of miles away.

    Persecuted peasants, doing the hard labor, die prematurely. Their only prayer is to die before their children do.

    Students!....Can anyone see a correlation between today's oppression of the poor and weak, and the isolated bookkeepers of the Third Reich, ala Adolph Eichmann?
    Meanwhile, in America:

    McDonalds had to put pictures on their cash registers. Otherwise, all those letters, and things; how is a clerk to know the difference between a Big Mac, and an Egg McMuffin? Letters, numbers, stuff....they all look so, so, much the same. Reading, learning, comprehending, thinking....its so yesterday.

    Why think? Google it.

    Nothing wrong with search engines (none / 0) (#3)
    by NealB on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 06:52:00 AM EST
    I agree with the point of your post almost entirely, but the last sentence suggesting that looking for information has become a substitute for thinking doesn't make sense.

    Its too early (none / 0) (#4)
    by NYShooter on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 07:20:59 AM EST
    in the a.m. on the East Coast.

    Maybe the early morning fog blurred my tongue pressing into my cheek.



    CU's position (none / 0) (#5)
    by jbindc on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 07:41:58 AM EST

    Sounds like he really engaged in some serious misconduct.

    (His own sister-in-law denounced a preface for a book his late wife wrote - a preface which Churchill wrote.  She called it "inaccurate and defaming").

    Also, interestingly, two students complained that their grades had been lowered by Professor Churchill because of positions they took in class. These complaints were over 5 years old, and they could not be verified, but the irony is delicious.

    the end of tenure (none / 0) (#6)
    by diogenes on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 09:41:04 AM EST
    If this guy wins this suit, it'll be a good thing because it will push the drive against faculty tenure forward.

    Faculty tenure (none / 0) (#9)
    by Dr Molly on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 10:23:23 AM EST
    is a good thing - it prevents faculty from being fired for speaking their minds.

    If the university can prove misconduct, (none / 0) (#12)
    by jeffinalabama on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 11:09:09 AM EST
    I wonder if it makes any difference in the case...

    He's claiming his firing was a speech issue, and the investigation was motivated for that.

    I have tremendous issues with academic fraud.

    What kind of post-tenure review policy does CU have?


    Yes (none / 0) (#14)
    by Dr Molly on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 12:01:44 PM EST
    Unfortunately, in this case, the 'academic misconduct' and the free speech issue seem now to be conflated. It would be important to take each separately, but that seems impossible now.

    I don't know if CU has post-tenure review - post-tenure review is a relatively new movement not adopted by all universities. Many think it is a movement designed to break the tenure system eventually.


    we have it, but it's not as (none / 0) (#16)
    by jeffinalabama on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 01:36:33 PM EST
    onerous as you might think... it was designed by a joint faculty admin committee. Had a colleague go through it, no major issues.

    My big academic fraud issue is the plagiarism charge-- to me that's the 8th Deadly Sin.


    I understand and agree. (none / 0) (#20)
    by Dr Molly on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 03:06:53 PM EST
    tenure? (none / 0) (#19)
    by diogenes on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 02:43:13 PM EST
    University social science departments seem to have the token conservative at most; on the whole, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a conservative to get a tenure track position, much less tenure, in many undergrad departments and law schools.
    If this guy made racist comments about the Rutgers womens basketball team or Donovan McNabb (as some right wing entertainers have done) you'd all be calling for his head.

    non-responsive (none / 0) (#21)
    by Dr Molly on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 03:07:31 PM EST
    9/11 (none / 0) (#7)
    by Steve M on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 10:16:07 AM EST
    As for those in the World Trade Center... Well, really, let's get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire - the "mighty engine of profit" to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved - and they did so both willingly and knowingly. Recourse to "ignorance" - a derivative, after all, of the word "ignore" - counts as less than an excuse among this relatively well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in - and in many cases excelling at - it was because of their absolute refusal to see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd really be interested in hearing about it.

    I read a moving article a few years back in the New York papers about some undocumented immigrants who were presumed dead on 9/11.  I have to say "presumed" because, being undocumented and with no family here, no one really knows.

    All that is known is that their families, back home in Latin America, used to intermittently hear from them.  Once in a while they would send remittances home.  I think one of the individuals had actually written that he had a new job in the World Trade Center and was excited about it.

    The families, naturally, can't even get death certificates.  No one can prove anything about what happened to them.  The State of New York has no idea that they even existed.  For our part, we're only hearing about these people because they had families to talk to the papers; what about the very real possibility that there may have been victims who left no one behind?  What's it like, to be gone and have no one to even wonder what became of you?

    Laborers, janitorial staff, shoeshine guys, you name it.  9/11 was a pretty indiscriminate attack.

    What a screed Churchill wrote. (none / 0) (#8)
    by oculus on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 10:22:04 AM EST
    I'm thinking he and Ayers could team up on the talk show Ayers hopes to host.

    You mean... (none / 0) (#10)
    by jbindc on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 10:24:14 AM EST
    They also were

    too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants?

    I guess Churchill thought they were "little Eichmans" as well.


    And Churchill could not understand why people... (none / 0) (#11)
    by nyjets on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 10:34:51 AM EST
    And Churchill could not understand why people were upset by his words that were 'taken out of context.'
    He basically wrote that the people who died  deserved to die. I understand about free speech. And honestly, he probably should win his case. But he does make me sick. I am convinced that after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, He was very upset that more people were not killed.

    (Then again, in all fairness, some people get sick over what I write so I probably should not talk. )


    This trial (none / 0) (#17)
    by NYShooter on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 01:40:51 PM EST
    is happening at a time that's made to order for maximum exposure and impact. I think it's going to highlight many things about our country that the past few decades have swept under the rug. I don't think for a minute it's going to be confined to the "bill of particulars" charged in the "indictment."

    The most important question to be adjudicated (IMO) will be: What have we learned about our country these past sixteen years?

    First, we had eight years of an educated President, whose goal was to increase the standard of living for the largest number of American citizens. He respected intellect, and used education, technology, and political acumen in pursuing his goals. Upon his exit, most Americans, and the Country, were substantially better off than before his arrival.

    That was followed by eight years of an "educated," yet illiterate, President, whose goal was to be the lightning rod for the most powerful, regressive, and, unfortunately, successful campaign in our nation's history, namely, the total usurpation, and re-allocation of the wealth held by most of our citizens. Shunning intellect, he embraced a psychology analogous to the "Brown Shirt" thugs of prior unfortunate regimes. Upon his exit, virtually all but a tiny minority of Americans were substantially worse off than before he arrived.

    So, let the trial begin. Will it be viewed through the complex academic prism of facts, debate, exercise, exploration, supposition, nuance, hue, and fearless exercise of the 1'st amendment (in all its complexity?)


    Will we succumb to Talk Radio Rules?

    (Note: I'm just commenting on the 9/11 frame of reference (little Eichmanns). I haven't studied the other charges enough to have any meaningful comment.)

    Here's the essay (none / 0) (#23)
    by Lora on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 05:57:34 PM EST
    "Some People Push Back" On the Justice of Roosting Chickens  

    It's been a while since I've read it.

    I really have no words for it at this time.

    Suffice it to say that I hope he wins his case, for the sake of academic freedom.