July 24, 2007

"What he said about 9/11 in his essay was not part of our discussion."

Said University of Colorado Board of Regents chair Patricia Hayes, explaining the firing today of Ward Churchill. Churchill will file suit claiming violation of his First Amendment rights.
Churchill touched off a firestorm in 2005 after an essay surfaced which he wrote shortly after 9/11 likening some victims in the World Trade Center to Adolf Eichmann, who helped carry out the Holocaust.

University officials concluded he could not be fired for his comments because they were protected by the First Amendment, but they launched an investigation into allegations that he fabricated or falsified his research and plagiarized the work of others.
So, was he fired for the reason the University gives or for the opinions he stated?

59 comments:

The Drill SGT said...

Of course the answer is both.

But when the pull you over for weaving across the yellow line and they find 10 KG of pot in the car, they can chose one or both of the crimes to take you to trial.

Ward was an academic fraud. The fact that he didn't just collect his 100k salary in obscurity, but rather made a public spectacle of himself and invited scrutiny of his writings is no the fault of the University. At that point, there was little choice but to proceed. the fact that he was such a phoney made it so much more enjoyable to some.

Sort of like Gary Hart.

Revenant said...

So, was he fired for the reason the University gives or for the opinions he stated?

Pretty much the latter, I'd say.

His protected speech caused an outcry which put him in the spotlight. Once in the spotlight, the fact that he had a long history of UNprotected fraudulent behavior came to light. After that, the fact that the controversy had been initially set off by protected remarks probably helped him -- had he not been best-known for his idiotic 9/11 comments, the university wouldn't have had to worry about looking like it was violating his academic freedom by firing him.

Seven Machos said...

What's up with that Barrett guy? Seriously. How has he been, except for writing letters to the editor explaining that war supporters will be killed?

Donald Douglas said...

Hey, Churchill wrote articles under an alias, then cited them in the footnotes to his "own" pieces.

That's freaky. Get that guy out of there.

Good job on the quick posting!

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirk said...

"The fact that he didn't just collect his 100k salary in obscurity, but rather made a public spectacle of himself and invited scrutiny of his writings is no the fault of the University."

You're joking, right? What's the good of sticking it to The Man if nobody knows????

Ann Althouse said...

"What's up with that Barrett guy? Seriously. How has he been, except for writing letters to the editor explaining that war supporters will be killed?"

Unlike Churchill, Barrett never had tenure. Tenure means something. It means a lot! It was taken away from Churchill, and it looks like that happened because people hated some harsh things he said. That does not sit well with me. Think about it. What if some Madisonians who don't like what I say decided to try to screw me and investigated me until they found some violation that they would never have gone looking for in the other professors who don't offend their sensibilities? Would you think that was okay? Would you accept their assertion that my free expression had nothing to do with the outcome?

TMink said...

Free speech should be protected. Shoddy and fraudulent research should be punished.

Trey

Seven Machos said...

Althouse -- Colorado was a bunch of idiots to tenure Churchill. That University conferred tenure on him. And I agree, for many reasons, that dumb-ass University should suck it up. Tenure is tenure.

On the other hand, Churchill didn't have credentials and his whole enterprise -- even his ostensible discipline -- was a sham. He is not the Native American he claimed to be. I'm not going to spend the time researching it but my recollection is that he went to some half-assed college and only has a Master's degree; that his scholarship was questionable at best; and that there are some other very sketchy things in his background that verge on outright fraud. For those reasons, the University had grounds to fire him. Come on. There have be occasions when even the most hardened defender of tenure would puncture the tenure veil.

Ultimately, Churchill was a fraud, and that fraud allowed Colorado to fire him for a political offense. Had he not committed the fraud, he couldn't have been fired for the political offense.

Finally, I do have some faith in our institutions and systems. It's not like this guy was dragged away to a gulag in the middle of the night. My God. It's taken years to the process to wind out, and probably it's not over. And dozens of people who believe that Little Eichmanns still teach in our universities.

I think this guy's story played out in about the fairest way practicably imaginable.

Synova said...

I might agree, Ann, if it was the university that dug into his past to find something. I don't think it was, initially. He pissed enough people off who then located and published examples of plagiarism (I remember seeing an example of stolen artwork).

At that point the University had to investigate, didn't they?

And was what they found the sort of nit-picking that everyone would fall equal prey to? Plagiarism is sort of the unforgivable sin in universities, isn't it?

Seven Machos said...

Yes. It's not like this guy was punished for political acts based ostensibly on trumped-up charges. The University didn't make a mountain out of a molehill here.

A thought experiment: had Churchill been an unassuming, tenured chemistry professor, and had it come out that he had done all the fraudulent things he has done but none of the political stuff at all, would that be grounds for termination?

I'm not an academic so I don't know. I'd be interested to hear.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Ann states: "Tenure means something. It means a lot! It was taken away from Churchill, and it looks like that happened because people hated some harsh things he said. That does not sit well with me."

Did Churchill get folks gunning for him because of his comments? You bet he did. But the motivations of those people didn't create his fraudulent work. The motivations of those people didn't make him engage in academic sock puppetry. The motivations of those people, in the end, didn't get him fired. Ward Churchill got himself fired by deviating so far from the barest minimum academic standards that there was no way back.

What does tenure mean anyway? Is it a no holds barred contest in which you are allowed to cheat and steal in order to attain? Because, let's be honest here, he didn't do the work necessary to be a tenured faculty. Someone else, who may have taken the job and the idea of being an academic researcher a hell of a lot more seriously, was kept out of that job by Churchill's malfeasance.

The NCAA will take away athletic championships when it is discovered an individual or an institution attained the honor by cheating. Shouldn't the honors of the academic world be held to a higher standard than the athletic?

paul a'barge said...

So, was he fired for the reason the University gives or for the opinions he stated?

Althouse, perhaps you could offer some evidence that Churchill was fired for what he said?

None of the reasons given pointed to this, and all the reasons given were firing offenses.

Or do you not think that fraud and deceit and plagiarism are firing offenses?

Because if you don't, that really puts an entire different spin on academia and accountability.

Hoosier Daddy said...

What if some Madisonians who don't like what I say decided to try to screw me and investigated me until they found some violation that they would never have gone looking for in the other professors who don't offend their sensibilities?

Sounds a lot like what happened to Scooter Libby but I digress.

Perhaps universities need to do a bit more due diligence on who they hire and confer tenure on. Churchill is a fraud. If I was able to pull a Frank Abagnale and could pass myself off as a law professor, get tenure and then because of something I said it came to light I never even went to college, tenure shouldn't be absolution.

I understand your point re: a witch hunt but then again, I think tenure also allows for a lot of abuse. I listened to a whole lot of racist and sexist bilge come from a poli sci prof while in college and he did it solely for the shock value. It didn't enlighten anyone or 'encourage dialog' or 'critical thinking' just created a lot of anger and resentment. But he had tenure so those offended simply had to pound sand.

I imagine society would be a whole lot more ugly if we all had tenure.

Cedarford said...

Tenure means something. It means a lot! It was taken away from Churchill, and it looks like that happened because people hated some harsh things he said.

No, what happened was the equivalent of a drug wholesale transporter who was making a fortune being a cocaine trucker and storer deciding that he would start a barbecue fire with a gallon of gasoline to really impress his pals with the huge roar, setting fire to the outside of his house, and when everyone arrived to fight the fire they found bales of coke everywhere.
His defense would be, what?
False imprisonment for just a little accidental fire?
Perhaps more appropos to Ward Churchill is a guy that decided to run for political office, and while engaged in 1st-Amendment protected political speech, and got national exposure for some controversial stand. Unfortunately for him, the family he walked out on 15 years before without a divorce before he married, his fraudulent ID and involvement in severaol investment frauds in Florida came to light.

That does not sit well with me. Think about it. What if some Madisonians who don't like what I say decided to try to screw me and investigated me until they found some violation that they would never have gone looking for in the other professors who don't offend their sensibilities?

I see you point if you get singled out for harassment, then singled out for ordinace or minor law infractions EVERYBODY is doing. Generally, the cops and courts are pretty good about getting a harasser to lay off...

With Churchill, though, he was a multiple fraud who was exposed multiple times but somehow got through U of Boulder by hidden mentors that blew off his exposures long before the 9/11 flap. He also had significant protectors high up in academia like Noam Chomsky.

He was caught threatening other members of AIM. Strong evidence he was a white guy faking being an Indian, bought his membership in a tribe that denies making him a member, and a massive scandal about him selling his art as Native American and ripping off the work of real NA artists as his own. Which led to his being barred by Feds eventually from marketing his art as native american.

He was faking his war record in articles and books he wrote, those incidents were uncovered long before his "Little Eichmann" speech. That he had plagarized and threatened an author in Canada whose work he ripped off if she continued to complain about the plagarism. Solid evidence back in the 90s of academic fraud, faking supporting footnotes.

The guy was a fraud in just about every corner of his life, but so arrogant and confident he was protected by his mentors and PC that he couldn't resist the national stage.

Once he pissed off tens of millions with his "Little Eichmanns" speech, as he intended for more fame, lecture bookings, as sales of his art and books - he just didn't anticipate people giving hundreds of tips to columnists like law professor Steve Campos about 3 decades of fraud, plagarism, and outrageous behavior his protectors had managed to sweep under the rug. The Internet was hot on his ass and uncovered more acts of malefeasance.

The problem with Ward Churchill is not that vindictive people uncovered his fraudulent life as consequence of his free speech.

It was that people collectively asking WTF? is this guy uncovered a network of high-level enablers that absolutely knew all about Churchill's decades of serious misconduct and who protected him and promoted him anyways over 30 years time.

Pogo said...

Re: "Tenure means something. It means a lot! It was taken away from Churchill, and it looks like that happened because people hated some harsh things he said."

1. Conversely, tenure is never even offered to certain academics who are conservatives when leftist beliefs animate the Department. What of them?

2. If he had only made otrageous comments but produced scholarly papers and did not plagiarize, he would not have been fired. Instead, the University would have either fired the President to clean up the place, or cut its funding. The school's damn lucky Churchill was simultaneously arrogant, lazy, and stupid. The "Duke 88" professors did a similar execrable thing. Nothing will happen to them at all.

3. Non-leftist speech is unprotected on campus, both for students and professors. McCarthyism is still practiced, but by the left, and for decades now. No one seriously disputes this.

Bissage said...

My 8:27 pm comment contained a piss-poor analogy and some rash hostility.

That’s why I deleted it.

Sorry about that.

Eli Blake said...

Churchill has several grounds for an appeal. The first, as is here mentioned is that this investigation was started precisely because of his statements.

But a second, even stronger reason is that UC President Hank Brown was actively lobbying the board for his dismissal. Since when is it the job of a University President to intervene in an ongoing inquiry that he is himself not directly in charge of?

Additionally, Ann is absolutely right about the meaning of tenure. Universities are supposed to be where new ideas are hatched. Sure, 99% of them are junk-- and as soon as they are held up to serious scrutiny in or outside of the university they are exposed as junk. But it is the other 1% of ideas, those that move humanity forward but often come at the cost of personal or professional risk, that must be protected. Without it, we as a society risk becoming ideologically hidebound, much as the Soviet Union became. Imagine where we would be today if Einstein (many of whose colleagues thought he was either crazy or stupid) had been silenced because of those who disagreed with his ideas or thought that they were either too radical or too fantastic to be right.

Either we all have freedom of speech, or no one does.

Harkonnendog said...

"What if some Madisonians who don't like what I say decided to try to screw me and investigated me until they found some violation that they would never have gone looking for in the other professors who don't offend their sensibilities? Would you think that was okay?"

If what you said was as egregious as what Churchill said I'd not only be okay with it, I'd be extremely happy. The guy's a piece of chit who got his job by lying... If tenure protects such people then down with tenure.

PatCA said...

"A thought experiment: had Churchill been an unassuming, tenured chemistry professor, and had it come out that he had done all the fraudulent things he has done but none of the political stuff at all, would that be grounds for termination?"

Yes, but someone on the "outside" has to discover it first because a university, like all bureaucratic entities, hates any ripple of the sea of life. (See the engineering fraud mill here.) And I would venture to say that no no one bothered to investigate Ward's preposterous claims of ethnicity and scholarship because it had already gone on so long, and wouldn't that be racism?

SteveR said...

I think the fraud was uncovered prior to an official investigation by people outside the university.

So not exactly fruit from a poisonous tree. More like people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Tenure is an important concept, all the better not to be abused by those who seek it and by those who confer it.

Eli Blake said...

harkonnendog:

Let me put it a little more clearly then (by plagiarizing a post I wrote myself several months ago):

Academia exists to expand and challenge the mind. It is a laboratory of civilization, in which ideas are born, percolate and eventually become shaped and expounded to the whole world. Probably at least 99% of the ideas that originate in even the finest of academic minds are stupid, nonoriginal, pointless, useless or (as in this case) needlessly and provocatively harmful. However, it is in academia that the ideas which themselves show promise can be forged, refined and eventually presented as progress. Of such small bits of progress is humanity ever increasing in knowlege, wisdom and ability. If we begin (even the smallest beginning) to restrict those ideas, then we have set a dangerous precedent-- in which only 'certain' ideas will be allowed. Like in Nazi Germany (or for that matter in the Soviet Union or today's fundamentalist Muslim countries) that precedent can be used to create great ignorance, malice and even violence.

Your comment says that you would want Ann to be fired if she says something as 'egregious' as Churchill. Please define 'egregious' in a way that I would agree with your definition. Who gets to define what is 'egregious' and what is not? Heck, I thought that Ann says something 'egregious' whenever she defends the Iraq war (which has cost America more lives and money than 9/11 did). So why is your definition of what is 'egregious' any more valid than mine?

If you can't say some particular thing, then you can say nothing.

And I'm surprised by how many on the right don't see this. In contrast, as a leftist I've defended in the past (and can provide links on request) among others: the Danish cartoonist, a holocaust denier, anti-Castro Cubans, people who use the 'n' word, and Walter Kehowski, a professor who holds a job similar to mine and is facing dismissal for sending out an anti-immigration email with a link to Pat Buchanan's website at work. Strongly disagree with all of the above, but still defend absolutely their right to say what they will.

Freedom of speech that is only there when you are pleasant and say nothing too 'egregious,' is not freedom of speech.

Revenant said...

What if some Madisonians who don't like what I say decided to try to screw me and investigated me until they found some violation that they would never have gone looking for in the other professors who don't offend their sensibilities?

I don't think you're guilty of anywhere near his level of misbehavior. But if you were, I don't think "you only noticed that I richly deserved to be fired because you don't like me" works as a defense.

The moral of this story is: when you're guilty as sin, don't draw attention to yourself. Churchill would have gotten in just as much trouble if he'd become famous for something people LIKED, too -- like that high school girl who got busted for plagiarizing her first novel.

Zeb Quinn said...

Ann: Maybe we should give Osama a pass too. Yeah, yeah, there's that 9/11 thing in his past, but the crux of what's really going on is that he's expressing some opinions that we in America find unpopular, and it's just not right --in fact it's downright unAmerican-- to take him down for that.

Revenant said...

Who gets to define what is 'egregious' and what is not?

For a public university, what's wrong with letting the voters and their elected representatives decide it? We let the school board decide the curriculum for public schools, after all. For private universities, let the trustees or shareholders decide it. Now, if they decide to implement a "you can say anything you want, we don't care" policy -- and many will -- then that's fine. But taxing the majority to pay for things the majority loathes is undemocratic (and morally questionable, too).

PJ said...

Tenure means something. It means a lot! It was taken away from Churchill, and it looks like that happened because people hated some harsh things he said. That does not sit well with me.

The hatred of harsh things Churchill said might have been a necessary condition for his firing, but it wasn't a sufficient condition. That distinction is blurred by your "because." People rat out other people for all sorts of reasons, many of which reflect poorly on the accusers. The questionable motives of an accuser may legitimately cause us to doubt the accuser's truthfulness, but when the accusatiion is independently verified as true, the accuser's questionable motives cannot constitute a defense to the charge.


Think about it. What if some Madisonians who don't like what I say decided to try to screw me and investigated me until they found some violation that they would never have gone looking for in the other professors who don't offend their sensibilities? Would you think that was okay?

Umm, sorry Professor, but Yes. (Nice appeal to personal loyalty, though!) I don't blame you for not liking it, but if they find something you ought to have to answer for, may we expect you to answer, or may we expect you to claim special immunity because of the questionable motives of your accusers?

Would you accept their assertion that my free expression had nothing to do with the outcome?

I wouldn't accept that assertion, but that is not the assertion concerning Churchill that is quoted in your headline. The speech-punishing motives of at least some of Churchill's accusers certainly had something "to do with" the outcome that he was fired. But that doesn't mean that Churchill's inflammatory remarks were "part of [the Regents'] discussion" about whether his academic misconduct warranted firing.

dick said...

Ann,

Assume that you had lied and cheated about your qualifications, commited plagiarism to get a lesser degree than you said you did and then claimed ethnicity that you did not have to get a particular position and then your university gave you tenure.

You then give speeches and make claims that are demonstrably false to the point that people investigate your past and discover all the falsity behind you.

At that point should you still retain tenure or should you be fired. If you retain tenure just what value is that position if people who have lied and plagiarized the way Churchill did are permitted to keep their positions and their tenure. I would think that an outsider would consider the value of anything from that particular university to be less than before the discovery that the university would accept that kind of dishonesty and reward it. If you think otherwise I would really like to know the thought processes that would allow that finding. I can assure you that I would not accept anything said by a professor from that university without about a ton of salt based on what they accept from their professors and provably so.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Eli states: "Sure, 99% of them are junk-- and as soon as they are held up to serious scrutiny in or outside of the university they are exposed as junk. But it is the other 1% of ideas, those that move humanity forward but often come at the cost of personal or professional risk, that must be protected. Without it, we as a society risk becoming ideologically hidebound, much as the Soviet Union became."

So the historian who denies the holocaust, the biologist who denies evolution for creationism, the geographer who believes the world is flat, or the political scientist who believes space aliens run the U.N. all must be tenured or we become "ideologically hidebound"? Because we are talking about behavior that rises (descends) to those sorts of levels. Inventing historical incidents out of whole cloth is not worthy of academic protection.

Yes, Ward Churchill has the right to publish essays under assumed names praising his work and then site them in works under his own name as support, but academia is under no obligation to treat such activity as the equal of that done by honest researchers. To say we should treat them as equvilent is outrageous. To claim that freedom of expression means we cannot pass judgement on such fraud is the height of intellectual dishonesty.

reader_iam said...

That does not sit well with me. Think about it.

Upon thinking about it: Oh, phooey, Ann.

Bruce Hayden said...

What bothers me about the suggestion that tenure should have protected him, is that the tenure was fraudulently obtained. In other words, it is ok to lie, cheat, and steal to get tenure, but once you have it, you are untouchable, even for the lying, cheating, and stealing to get the tenure in the first place.

Most people I know who have gotten tenure at a university worked hard for it. And that is as it should be. As a result of that work, they have more job protection than anyone outside of the House of Representatives in a Gerrymandered safe district. Actually, even more than the Representative from the safe district.

There have to be some effective safeguards on this power, esp. at a state university where it is the taxpayers who are ultimately responsible for the bill. The process was abused in his case in getting the tenure in the first place. And even if that hadn't happened, his academic fraud since then should be grounds for dismissal.

Bruce Hayden said...

I don't think Churchill's appeals will go anywhere. Mention was made of CU President Brown's actions. But what must be remembered is that Brown was an attorney long before he was a Senator or university president, and given the situation, I have no doubt that CU dotted all of its i's and crossed all of its t's here.

But what also has to be kept in mind is that CU and its faculty was essentially given the choice of sacrificing Churchill, or facing a major reworking of tenure at the university. We had already had had repeated exposes showing that the average teaching load for some departments at the university was around 1.5 classes a year. With TAs doing most of the student interfacing (it is a research university, after all), that means that they were effectively working at their primary job of teaching less than one day a week for the school year (with summers off, of course). It should also be noted that the faculty at the school is considered the farthest to the left of any in the state, with registered Republicans being almost non-existent (indeed, there are more registered communists than Republicans in some departments). All at a state university.

So, the University was faced with a significant amount of pressure to either police its own, or the entire tenure system there would be redone from the ground up.

So, yes, one of President Brown's jobs was to clean up the Churchill mess, to the University's advantage. And that meant, from day one, getting rid of him without paying him off (and, yes, that was tried, until the news organizations following it found out about it). Another part was to clean up the athletic program.

But in the end, this was never really about academic freedom, but rather about cleaning up corruption.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Eli said Freedom of speech that is only there when you are pleasant and say nothing too 'egregious,' is not freedom of speech.

So do you think Imus should have been canned for his remarks? I find it interesting that many on the liberal/left like to use this line of thinking except when it comes to those areas they classify as 'hate speech.'

I think too many people misunderstand freedom of speech. If I go around the office saying my boss is like working for a little Hitler and get fired, was my freedom of speech infringed?

Last time I checked, I thought it said Congress shall pass no law infringing the right of free speech. I don't think U of Colorado passes for Congress. Churchill should be fired, not imprisoned which was the intent of the 1st amendment as I understand it.

Bruce Hayden said...

Part of what was interesting here was how thoroughly Churchill was discredited. Part of the credit goes to the more moderate paper (the Rocky Mountain News - nowhere near conservative, but more to the center than the Denver Post), and probably more to the dreaded talk radio. Together, they ran months of exposes.

I caught a lot of this on Caplis and Silverman, at 630 KHOW. They are both civil litigators in their real lives, and applied their litigation skills to bringing down Churchill. And that meant amassing huge amounts of information, and then feeding it to the RMN, CU, etc. And lest it be considered purely partisan, Silverman is a registered Democrat and is reliably liberal on most subjects.

But not this one. Both are CU grads - Caplis as an undergrad, and Silverman from law school. And that seemed to be what brought them, and a lot of others, together in this crusade, was their love of their alma mater, and a desire to see it shine again.

And, yes, as a result of wall to wall coverage over months, we had a high tech lynching. But this lynching was after finding that there was absolute proof that the one to be lynched had not only raped the master's wife, but also had done far worse to the other female plantation workers.

It didn't help Churchill that the ethnic group that should have been protecting him, the native Americans, mostly came out for his hide too. But not only had he apparently faked his Indian ancestry, but he had also gone on and physically assaulted several Native American women who had had the effrontery to question him. So, if this was a lynching, the other slaves were volunteering to hold the noose for him.

Cedarford said...

Eli Blake said...
Churchill has several grounds for an appeal. The first, as is here mentioned is that this investigation was started precisely because of his statements.


No, he was reinvestigated (he had been investigated several times before his LIttle Eichmanns speech) after drawing attention to himself along with fresh claims that he had fraudulently obtained tenure, a complicit tenure committee had approved him, then promoted him to Department Chair.

His past frauds included not only academic plagarism he was called on in the 90s, but ripping off the work of Native American artists and selling it as his own.

Eli Blake - Imagine where we would be today if Einstein (many of whose colleagues thought he was either crazy or stupid) had been silenced because of those who disagreed with his ideas or thought that they were either too radical or too fantastic to be right.

Imagine Eli Blake is one of the few people who does not know Einstein was working as a patent clerk, not tenured, not employed by any university, when he wrote his 3 great papers in 1905.

In many fields, the professor's greatest contributions tend to be before tenure is granted - then the productivity dries up for some reason. Mainly math and the sciences, but plenty of liberal arts faculties see a precipitous dropoff in contributions once tenure is granted. At many liberal arts facilities, writing from a conservative and thus incorrect perspective on race, gender, or class is a surefire way NOT to get tenure.

P. Rich said...

Very little of great or lasting value originates from academic institutions, and none from Angry Studies departments that employ the Churchills of the world. And I suspect that most of what does come from university labs is incidental to the university.

As for tenure, think AFofL/CIO dockworker - with degrees. It is protection, but not for "free speech." It is protection for laziness, incompetence and inability to function effectively outside of a cozy little cocoon - protection aggressively sought by those who contribute least. Far from reward for accomplishment, tenure has become a political bestowal for approved behavior.

Firing Churchill only corrected an egregious error, all too common in today's PC institutions, that occurred because of race/class/gender radical influence on hiring decisions. He portrayed himself as a "qualified" victim. He lied, about that and many other things. Exactly what, Althouse, does that have to do with free speech, or great and wonderful creations that flower from institutions of "higher learning"?

Bruce Hayden said...

Hoosier Daddy

To be fair, the 1st Amdt. was made applicable to the states through incorporation via the 14th Amdt. (Ann would know the specifics better).

The argument is that CU is a state institution, and therefore is subject to the 1st Amdt.

But what those suggesting 1st Amdt. protection here forget is that it is not absolute. Rather, the state can put some restrictions on speech. But they really can't put content restrictions on it, esp. in this case. And that is why he wasn't fired for what he said about 9/11, but for all the academic fraud he committed.

Remember, if the 1st Amdt. protections for Free Speech were absolute, there could never be prosecutions for any number of crimes, including fraud, extortion, insider trading, etc., and probably even hate crimes. There are a lot of crimes on the books that involve regulating speech. But some types of speech are fine to regulate, including those listed above.

And in the end, Churchill was fired for firable offenses. Yes, he was investigated because of the content of his speech, but only after the news outlets had made out a fairly compelling case of academic fraud. So, CU is in the enviable position of being able to ignore his protected speech from the first. They can honestly say that they didn't investigate him for that speech, but for the myriad of academic frauds brought to their attention.

And, yes, those academic frauds become evident in the wake of the media concentrating on him because of his speech. But they aren't state actors, and thus the 1st Amdt. doesn't apply to them, as it does the University.

mrs whatsit said...

Ann, his fraud was extraordinarily extensive. It involved all areas of his life -- his academic writings, his claims of ethnicity, his artwork, on and on. If tenure protected that kind of behavior, I'd say let's toss tenure.

I agree with the commenter who said that, if anything, the 9/11 comments protected him by making it harder for the University to fire him. He wasn't terminated for unpopular behavior, he was fired for what amounts to thievery from the public till. He lied to obtain a state-funded job, and then once he got it he kept right on lying. I don't see that academic freedom plays any role at all in this, unless you believe that it includes the freedom to lie about nearly every aspect of your life and work. I doubt very much that you do.

Pogo said...

The Churchill lesson is: if you're going to lie, cheat, and steal your way into tenure, have the sense to shut up once you're in.

Paco Wové said...

"It was taken away from Churchill, and it looks like that happened because people hated some harsh things he said."

Really? As has been remarked, it looks like it happened because he was engaged in academic fraud -- which nobody would have known or cared about if he hadn't made a spectacle of himself.

I think Althouse and Eli B. are trying to make a 1st amendment / academic freedom case out of something that isn't.

The Drill SGT said...

Ann,

Before you climb off your Tenure high horse, let's look at the decision tree branches

In this case, he committed the frauds before the "free speech" issue in question. individuals knew of the individual frauds (and likely did some of his mentors) but nobody had the whole story. The Indians knew of his ancestry fraud, the artists of his art fraud, authors of his plagiarism, and scholars of his lies. but nobody has the whole picture. so along comes 9/11. Churchill makes a big splash, the INTERNET buzzs and all the folks that know of one fraud discover there are 100 frauds.

so, given that.

1. if you commit academic fraud, should "free speech" statements immunize you if you make them before you lie, cheat and steal?

2. immunize you if you lie cheat and steal first, then turn virgin with your "free speech" act?

3. or maybe the lying, cheating and stealing isn't connected to your speech rights?

Roger said...

Sorry Ann--tenure means something IF it is obtained based on genuine credentials, scholarly research, and academic accomplishment. Churchill was an anglo indian poseur, and there are quite a few of those running around in academe regretably. They tend to gravitate to unrecognized tribes such as the abenaki and affect braids, indian dress and the other accoutrements of native americans.

That said, the university was gullible to the extreme in hiring him and granting him tenure in the first place--most like ffor PC reasons. But dont let free speech cover academic mis and malfeasance.

DStevens said...

The vote to fire the fraud was 8-1. They should also fire the one person who didn't vote for Churchill's dismissal.

Original Mike said...

Ann asked: "What if some Madisonians who don't like what I say decided to try to screw me and investigated me until they found some violation that they would never have gone looking for in the other professors who don't offend their sensibilities? Would you think that was okay?"

For me, whether or not is was okay would depend on the particulars of the violation. Was it serious?

And I say that as someone with tenure.

"Would you accept their assertion that my free expression had nothing to do with the outcome?"

I think what started it is irrelavant. Again, it depends on the particulars of the real violation(s).

Fen said...

The vote to fire the fraud was 8-1. They should also fire the one person who didn't vote for Churchill's dismissal.

I'd be curious to hear his/her "dissenting opinion". Anyone have a link?

And I agree with others here - Churchill was fired for being a fraud, his reckless remarks only skylined him.

Jason said...

Both Churchill and Althouse have a constitutional right to freedom of expression, as do all Americans.

Neither, however, has a constitutional right to perpetual employment at the public teat. Nor does any American.

As someone who is not in academia, and who works in the private sector, the self-serving reflex to conflate "tenure" with "free speech" is offensive to me.

I understand that tenure can theoretically help to encourage the free flow of ideas in an academic setting. But given its abuses, and the obnoxious habit of academic departments to use tenure to lock in a climate of leftist intellectual inbreeding, I'm not sure that tenure is serving any purpose but that of entrenched academia, anymore, anyway.

Maybe we'd have a livelier and more balanced intellectual climate if academics were MORE beholden to the values espoused by the people of this Republic. Not less.

That might be what needs to happen to give conservative viewpoints a fair shot in academic circles.

I mean, it's all about the free exchange of ideas, right, Ann?

Fen said...

Ann: "What if some Madisonians who don't like what I say decided to try to screw me and investigated me until they found some violation that they would never have gone looking for in the other professors who don't offend their sensibilities? Would you think that was okay?"

If your words invited scrutiny, and that scrutiny discovered something fraudulent [like not having a law degree], then "yes".

Peter Palladas said...

Well that took some tracking down. As you can imagine a raw Google search for 'Churchill, Eichmann' threw up just too much information.

OK so the guy is a loon. QED.

We - or rather mercifully you - have a man who makes his case thus:

But innocent? Gimme a break.

What part of that argument deserves the title 'academic' precisely?

You get tenure for that? Blimey, I missed a big boat here.

"Bush? Gimme a break."

"Aristotle? Gimme a break."

"Global warming? Gimme a break."

"Free Speech? Gimme a break."

...Can I have my $100k now please?

Dewave said...

It was taken away from Churchill, and it looks like that happened because people hated some harsh things he said. That does not sit well with me.

Do you deny that he plagiarized? Do you think that plagiarism should not be a fireable offense? If a professor can't be counted on for intellectual credibility, there is no point in having him. Indeed, it does more harm than good.

Think about it. What if some Madisonians who don't like what I say decided to try to screw me and investigated me until they found some violation that they would never have gone looking for in the other professors who don't offend their sensibilities? Would you think that was okay?

I would indeed. You were guilty the whole time, and they just hadn't found it out yet. You're not being unjustly punished. The fact that other guilty people haven't been caught yet is no reason why you should get off free.

Would you accept their assertion that my free expression had nothing to do with the outcome?

Yep. The idea that you can use the fact that you say unpopular things as some sort of 'immunity shield' against the repurcussions of illegal behavior is a foul and repellant one.

Ubertrout said...

Ann, I understand that you're troubled by taking away tenure. But I'd suggest that while perhaps none of this would have come to light but for Mr. Churchill's ravings, I do not think that that they were the actual reason for removing him. In fact, I suspect that most everyone has pretty much forgotten about Mr. Churchill's original comments, much as they've forgotten those of Stockhausen.

Ward Churchill plagiarized from the materials of others and (perhaps even worse from a scholarship perspective) made up various historical events and attempted to establish their veracity by including them in articles written under the names of other scholars without giving a source, and then citing that other article as the source for the made-up history. The problem isn't that he said objectionable thing - it was that he was perverting scholarship.

Jeff said...

At what point does Tenure no longer act as a shield for bad behavior? or better yet, when did it begin acting as a shield for bad behavior? You have a case if you are fired for something you say or something YOU write. You do not have a case if you lie, steal, or plagiarize. I dont know what choice the university had. Even if people hadnt started looking into his past until his 9/11 comments, what exactly was the school to do when all this was brought to their attention? "nope, sorry, you only found out about this mountain of unethical behavior because he said something stupid. Therefor since he has tenure, we have to ignore all this other stuff."
The only basis for appeal is to demonstrate that the fraud and stealing of others material, and the threats and everything else would NOT be basis for dismissal for anyone else, therefore it has to be due to his 1st amendment/tenure protected free speech rights and nothing else. I dont think he can do that.

Jeff said...

Or as a possible loophole, he could prove that the university knew about his shoddy and fraudulent career BEFORE 9/11 and didnt think it important at that time, it was only after his 9/11 comments that they took action. There he might have a case, should that be true. I just would have a hard time arguing that the school knew what a joke, academically speaking, I was and just tolerated me due to my fake Indian facade. But that's just me.

Harkonnendog said...

Eli Blake,

First throw freedom of speech out of the conversation. Getting fired from your job has NOTHING to do with freedom of speech. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Nobody is saying Churchill should be thrown in jail for saying what he said.

Second throw out the idea that I said he should be fired for what he said. Never said it. I said he got fired for lying. If the guy murdered someone 20 years ago but only got caught because he said something yesterday does it violate his free speech to bust him for murder? Lol...

Third lets throw out the elitist claptrap idea that beneficial new ideas originate in universities blah blah blah... That's a bunch of crap, too, imho. In fact I'd say university ideas do a lot more harm than good. (And this situation is a good example. In fact it is hilarious that you bring up this idea in this context, lol.) Now we could have a debate about it, whatever, but my point is I don't accept this premise.

So now to answer your question... oh, there is no question now, is there?
Lol...

Anyway, you should try to realize how massively ridiculous this situation is to anyone outside of academia. This is the best example of people living in an ivory tower I've seen... Banish Churchill and you don't banish the world, you banish... Churchill.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

To the assertion: The vote to fire the fraud was 8-1. They should also fire the one person who didn't vote for Churchill's dismissal.

Fen said: I'd be curious to hear his/her "dissenting opinion". Anyone have a link?

Evidently they concurred with all of the findings of academic malfeasance, they just advocated a lesser penalty (such as a five year suspension without pay advocated by some of the faculty.)

That was mentioned at FIRE's website...but they seem to be down right now so I dont have the link.

Tibore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tibore said...

"What if some Madisonians who don't like what I say decided to try to screw me and investigated me until they found some violation that they would never have gone looking for in the other professors who don't offend their sensibilities? Would you think that was okay? Would you accept their assertion that my free expression had nothing to do with the outcome?"

Whoa, whoa, whoa... Professor, no offense, but the phrase "would never have gone looking for in other professors" is a red herring. The point is that the board determined he committed academic "misconduct" (read: Fraud) and whether they wouldn't have gone looking for it in normal circumstances is a separate question from whether they should have, and doesn't logically lead to the conclusion that he shouldn't be fired. I would argue that the fact he would've gone unnoticed without his incendiary views is irrelevant: Academic misconduct such as his is an offense period, and the fact that his views led to the investigation on his conduct doesn't change the fact the offense was committed. A person can peddle agitprop 24-7, but the moment that person plagerizes, fabricates, falsifies, etc. (all charges the board upheld against him), he's committed the terminal offense of academic dishonesty and earns his dismissal.

This isn't a freedom of speech issue, it's one about academic honesty. If Churchill wants to peddle his outrageous views, he can, but he must not commit academic fraud when doing so.

PatCA said...

Let's not forget that one author's claim of plagiarism was upheld against Ward in 1997; the only reason she didn't tell CU at that time is that Churchill threatened her. So it didn't take a lot of digging to "find" something to justify firing. If you can't revoke tenure for this guy, then any standard is meaningless.

"The Dalhousie University legal counsel rendered an opinion concluding that the chapter was plagiarized.

"Professor Cohen alleged that she did not communicate the allegations of plagiarism discussed above to the University of Colorado until March 2005 because she was intimidated by Professor Churchill based on past dealings. She recounted that when she withdrew her work from The State of Native America, a book edited by Professor Churchill, due to substantive editorial disagreements, he telephoned her late at night and said in a menacing voice: “I’ll get you for this.” While the threat and resulting intimidation described by Professor Cohen did not directly relate to the research misconduct allegation, they would be relevant to a question which may be raised during the course of the research misconduct inquiry, that is, why Professor Cohen did not pursue the plagiarism claim sooner." (from Malkin)

It's all so egregious that Ann's analogy doesn't work, IMO.

Original Mike said...

Regarding the issue of whether people who wish you ill starting the investigation into your background should absolve you of responsibility for whatever they may find:

Some may look to exclusion of evidence found in an illegal search as a model. I don't think it's a good model, however. I think we exclude illegally obtained evidence as a deterent to the police for conducting illegal searches. I don't think the same motivation pertains here.

DaveG said...

8 out of 9 liberal academics found a firing offense, tenure or no. Who am I to argue?

That would be like not chewing Trident, despite the 80% approval rating from dentists - that would be crazy!