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Academic freedom, tenure and Ward Churchill

May 31, 2007

I have been interested in the ongoing saga of Ward “little Eichmanns” Churchill for quite some time. And I am not alone, do a quick search of the InsideHigherEd site and you will find a lode of articles and commentary.

Here are some of the links that caught my eye:

After reading the committee’s reports, I found a lot of the commentary to be verbal dysentery. The committee, while elitist and snooty to the Ethnic Studies department, did a good job of teasing out freedom of speech from poor academic work (he plagiarized). What was missing, though, were the Originality Reports, which I would like to see.

A few culled excerpts (source):

· “As one example, Professor Churchill stated in his response to the Investigative Committee that ‘I doubt that any even marginally prolific scholar’s publications could withstand the type of scrutiny to which mine has been subjected.’” — Sure, poison the well for other lazy academics.

· An overarching question that emerged in our discussions is whether different scholarly “standards” apply in ethnic studies than in other more
traditional fields, such as history.

· Professor Churchill’s academic background and choice of publication venues are untraditional. Although many of his writings, including nearly all those discussed in this report, address historical and/or legal issues, he does not have formal training at the graduate level in those fields. Professors writing on the topics he addresses would typically have a Ph.D. in history or a law degree; Professor Churchill’s graduate degree is an M.A. in Communications Theory.

· Many of Professor Churchill’s publications predate his employment as a tenured Associate Professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder in fall 1991 and his promotion to (full) Professor in fall 1997. Our Committee therefore believes that at the time he was hired, the University was aware of the type of writing and speaking he does.

It seems that Churchill was the victim of not submitting a paper according to the (often unwritten) rules of “scholarship.” That is, he is not the typical child of the academy and will be punished for that.

One should know his place.


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