Revolution #85, April 22, 2007
Update on the Struggle to Stop the Firing of Ward Churchill
On April 11, the faculty committee hearing Ward Churchill’s appeal of the effort by the University of Colorado (CU) to fire him passed their report on to the administration. Three members of the committee voted for a one-year suspension of Churchill and his demotion to Associate Professor; two voted for dismissal. The CU administration claims Churchill should be fired for “research misconduct.” But the investigation they launched of his scholarship came as a direct result of an orchestrated, nationwide political witch-hunt by two powerful Republican governors and other politicians and right-wing forces over two years ago. It was because of a provocative essay he wrote right after 9/11, and his radical critique of U.S. actions internationally and its history of genocide against the Native Americans, that Churchill became the target of attack and prompted this illegitimate investigation into his scholarship.
The decision by the appeals committee is unacceptable! It gives credence to the whole campaign to drag Churchill's name through the mud, by saying there is something wrong with his scholarship deserving of disciplinary measures.
Churchill and the administration now have 10 working days to respond the committee's report. Then University President Hank Brown will have another 15 working days to make a decision. If he recommends firing in spite of the recommendation of the committee's majority for suspension, the decision will go to the Board of Regents for final approval. (For more on Churchill's case, see the supplement in Revolution #81, “Warning: The Nazification of the American University,” online at revcom.us.)
Also on April 12, Boulder’s Colorado Daily News reported, in an article entitled “Don’t Dismiss Him,” that “powerful scholars from across the nation are speaking out to reverse Churchill's discharge. Law Professor Derrick Bell of New York University's School of Law, Noam Chomsky of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other prominent professors are involved in this effort and published a letter in the recent [April 12] edition of the New York Review of Books.”
The article quotes from the letter:
“The relentless pursuit of and punitive approach of the University of Colorado at Boulder to Professor Ward Churchill is a revealing instance of the ethos that is currently threatening academic freedom. The voice of the university and intellectual community needs to be heard strongly and unequivocally in defense of dissent and critical thinking. And one concrete expression of such a resolve is to oppose the recommended dismissal of Ward Churchill from his position as a senior tenured faculty member.” (The complete text of the letter is available online at teachersfordemocracy.org and wardchurchill.net, and the letter can be signed at defendcriticalthinking.org.)
The Boulder Daily Camera also reported on the same day that a group of students and faculty members unofficially made this week the Ward Churchill Week. The students marched on the administration with petitions demanding that Churchill not be fired, and that the Alumni Association give Churchill the award for “favorite professor” that students had voted him for two years ago. The next evening the students hosted an event featuring Professor Eric Cheyfitz, Ernest I. White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters at Cornell University, an American Indian Studies scholar who is highly critical of the approach and findings of the CU investigation of Churchill, believing that they have turned a debate over U.S. history into an indictment.
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