Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Solidarity for Ward Churchill in Boulder

The tragic events of 9/11 witnessed a variety of responses. Congress came together for a few days to sing a bipartisan Kumbaya. The Bush Administration dedicated itself to the safety of the American people. Ward Churchill wrote a tract in which he characterized the innocent victims of 9/11 as “Little Eichmanns.”

Ward Churchill’s remarks lay dormant until shortly before a scheduled speech at Hamilton College in 2005. The disclosure outraged the American people and proved a national embarrassment to the University of Colorado, which was trying to recover from scandals in the Athletics Department.

His academic background was interesting. He received a B.A. in Technological Communications in 1974 and M.A. in Communications Theory in 1975 from Sangamon State University, since renamed the University of Illinois at Springfield.

He was hired by Colorado in 1978 as an affirmative action officer. He discovered his Native American ethnicity, became active in AIM (The American Indian Movement) and lectured on Indian issues in the Ethnic Studies Program. CU then hired him in 1991 as an Associate professor and granted him tenure in 1992 in the Communications Department, after both the Political Science and Sociology Departments declined to do so.

He moved to the Ethnic Studies Program in 1996 and was named its Chair in 2002.

Quite a fast track for one with only a masters degree from one of America’s non-elite academic institutions! Presumably affirmative action was a factor.

But he was “Native American,” as self-proclaimed in both his 1978 application for a lectureship on Native American studies and in his 1990 application for Associate Professor. As Ward variously said, he was Muscogee and Creek, Cherokee, 1/8 Creek and 1/16 Cherokee, 1/16 Creek and Cherokee, and 3/16 Cherokee, and an enrolled member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees.

He couldn’t get his story straight, perhaps because both his parents are 100% Caucasian. He has never been an enrolled member of any tribe.

He also misrepresented his military background.

He claimed the need for tenure because, he said, a California State University had offered him tenure.

Such is the academic background for which the University of Colorado is now chagrinned. They should not be surprised by his scholarly misconduct in light of his background.

Colorado had a problem though. His comments about 9/11 were protected speech, and the University clearly overlooked his academic deficiencies.

What to do? What to do?

The answer was clear. A close look at his scholarship, or more accurately what passed for scholarship, revealed a pattern of scholarly misconduct.; i.e. plagiarism, fabrications, false descriptions of the works of others, and perhaps even passing off his writings as his then wife’s. In short, he was an academic fraud. Some of his fabrications include the charge that Captain John Smith intentionally exposed the Wampanoag Indians to smallpox in the 1600’s and then repeated the claim with the US Army contaminating the Mandan Indians in North Dakota with smallpox in 1837.

The investigatory report provides academicians an object lesson on how not to do scholarship.

The CU Board of Trustees voted 8:1 on July 24, 2007 to fire Ward Churchill. He filed a lawsuit shortly after. The case went to trial yesterday.

The Ward Churchill Solidarity Network has been established in his support. Bill Ayres spoke last week at a rally for Churchill in Boulder. Only in America can two unrepentant domestic terrorists become professors at major universities: Bill Ayres at the University of Illinois at Chicago and his wife, Bernadette Dohrn at Northwestern University. Ayres is rumored to have been offered a position by Harvard.

David Layne, Churchill’s attorney, in his opening argument to the jury placed Ward` Churchill on the pantheon with Galileo and Scopes.

The University faces three major problems in the litigation. First, the only reason for the scholarly investigations was his protected speech. Second, the University hired him, tenured him and made him a Chair, all with knowledge that his academic record was scant. Third, it rejected affirmative action as a basis for employing Ward, eventhough that is the rational explanation for hiring someone as otherwise academically unqualified as Ward Churchill.

The jury pool is four women and four men, some of whom are of color.

CU’s advantage is that it can easily show Churchill is an academic fraud.

The bigger problem for America is that his balderdash passes as scholarship and teaching at many of our institutions of higher education.

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