One hundred and ninety-nine faculty members at the University of Colorado at Boulder dishonored their school today by signing an advertisement in the Boulder Daily Camera in support of Professor Ward Churchill. Although the University of Colorado has many distinguished professors, the advertisement makes it clear that the University also has some professors with insufficient concern about academic and professional integrity. The Denver Post article on the ad is here; the Daily Camera ad itself is not on the web--although it would be a good idea for someone to place the ad on the web, as a permanent record of where some CU's faculty stood.
The advertisement purports to defend "Professor Churchill's right to speak what he believes to be the truth." This statement ignores the fact--which is perfectly obvious to to anyone who has been reading Colorado newspapers over the last several weeks--that Churchill is a consummate liar. There is overwhelming evidence--which Churchill has failed to refute in even a minimally plausible way--of the following falsehoods by Churchill:
As detailed by Lamar University's Thomas Brown, Churchill's writings claim that the U.S. Army deliberately caused an 1837 smallpox epidemic among the Sioux by distributing infected blankets. Yet the very sources cited by Churchill state that the epidemic was accidentally spread by travelers and that the army had nothing to do with it.
As detailed by the University of New Mexico law school's John LaVelle in the American Indian Quarterly and the Wicazo Sa Review, Churchill has lied about the 1887 General Allotment Act (falsely claiming that the Act required proof of a certain percentage of Indian blood in order for a person to be eligible to be allotted personal land on Indian reservations) in six books and eleven essays. LaVelle further demonstrates multiple instances of plagiarism by Churchill and of citing sources for the opposite of what they really said.
Churchill's academic career has also included time as Instructor of studio art and art history at Black Hills State College, and he promoted himself as an "Indian artist" until a 1990 law federal prohibited non-Indians from selling their work as Indian art. As detailed detailed by KCNC television, Churchill's 1981 serigraph "Winter Attack" is plagiarized from a nearly identical painting by the renowned artist Thomas Mails. Churchill merely reversed the left-to-right imagery, and colored a bush green.
"Professor Churchill's right to speak what he believes to be the truth" does not protect Churchill's apparently false claims that he received paratrooper training the Vietnam War, and that he served in a long-range reconnaissance patrol unit--although his military records show that he was instead in the motor pool. Mount Holyoke history professor Joseph Ellis was stripped of his endowed chair and suspended without pay for a year because of similar lies about his own Vietnam record.
As detailed by KHOW's radio's Dan Caplis and Craig Silverman and by the Pirate Ballerina weblog, Churchill's entire academic career has been based on advancement through his bogus claim to be part Indian.
The CU 199 purport to "defend an environment in which ideas may be openly exchanged." Yet Churchill himself has attempted to destroy such an environment, at CU and around the nation. Two former students have alleged that their grades were lowered in retaliation for their exercise of freedom of speech. (One student wrote a campus newspaper article reporting the evidence that Churchill is not an Indian; another student suffered retaliation for disagreeing with Churchill's statements in class that the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was a good thing.) A CU professor reported that Churchill physicially threated her because she favored naming a building after a retired administrator, rather than after an Indian tribe, as Churchill preferred. Churchill called for the murder of anarchist writer Bob Black. He called for the death of a student newspaper cartoonist who had criticized a racist professor in Hawaii who wrote about her fantasy of mutilating and killing a white woman.
Although CU professors are required by state law to sign an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Colorado Constitution, Churchill has repeatedly called for the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, and has urged his audiences to perpetrate 9/11 type terrorist attacks in the United States. In doing so, he has provided explicit instructions about where the attacks should take place, and how the attacker should dress so as to be able to get to the target.
Now perhaps Churchill has credible defenses to the above charges, but if so, we have not yet heard them. There is overwhelming evidence that the University of Colorado's current investigation of Ward Churchill's conduct is well-grounded. For the CU 199 to claim otherwise is foolish. The CU 199 allege that to investigate Churchill undermines "the very idea of the university itself." To the contrary, the very idea of a university depends on professors who do their work honestly, rather than with fraud and plagiarism, and depends on professors who respond to their intellectual foes by using counter-arguments, rather than by threatening and promoting violence and homicide. That 199 professors could defend a fraudulent thug and bully like Ward Churchill shows how very far the University of Colorado has fallen from the very idea of a university itself.
UPDATE: Although the CU 199 never say so explicitly, the ad appears to adopt the theory of Churchill's attorney, David Lane, that none of Churchill's litany of misconduct can be the basis for firing him, because the current investigation of Churchill was started by the Regents after Churchill's infamous "little Eichmanns" essay became the subject of public controversy. The ad from the CU 199 states that "the investigation of Professor Churchill's scholarly record has been initiated in direct response to criticisms of his ideas and without any prior format complaint of specific professional or academic misconduct on his part."
The claim of the CU 199 is wrong as a matter of fact, and as a matter of law. According to articles in the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News (Post archives are available on the web; Rocky archives are not), there have been repeated complaints made to the administration about Churchill's misconduct in the classroom and his threats. Furhter, as reported in Westword in 1994, the National American Indian Movement filed a complaint with the University of Colorado about Churchill's ethnic fraud. As was the norm at CU, none of these complaints appear to have resulted in any administrative action. Given such repeated failures, it is within the Regents' discretion to order their own investigation.
Further, as the Second Circuit case of Jeffries v. Harrelston makes clear, there was nothing improper about the initiation of an investigation following the uproar regarding Churchill's hateful comments. In Jeffries, the head of the Black Studies Department at the City College of New York was stripped of his chairmanship following the uproar resulting from a crackpot racist speech he gave in Albany. The Second Circuit explained that the City College Regents could demote Jeffries "based upon a reasonable prediction that the Albany speech would disrupt university operations." The CU Regents certainly had the right to order the torpid CU administration to conduct an investigation of similar issues. (Although ordered by the Regents, the investigation is being conducted by three CU administrators, two of whom appear to have brushed off previous complaints about Churchill.)
Implicit in the ad from the CU 1999 is that the issues of academic fraud and plagiarism are off-limits because no-one has made a "formal complaint" to the CU administration. But there is no rule that a university must blind itself to a professor's fraud and other misconduct unless someone files a "formal complaint." There certainly should be an inquiry, however, about why the CU Arts & Sciences administration failed to take action following the publication of Professor LaVelle's articles in the late 1990s, and failed to respond to a formal complaint which someone filed with CU about Churchill promoting terrorism at a speech in Minnesota.
Moreover, Churchill's book on the Justice of Roosting Chickens, which contains the "little Eichmanns" essay, is itself a very fit starting point for an inquiry into Churchill's scholarly competence; most of the book is a crackpot history of the United States, filled with obviously incompetent statements. Churchills calls George Washington was "the richest man in North America" during the revolutionary war. Churchill writes about "Future president Alexander Hamilton." He asserts that white people "demonstrably perpetrate crimes at rates as great or greater than persons of color." For this last claim, he supplies a footnote which does not support the claim; in fact, whether one relies on victim surveys or on arrest data, data overwhelmingly show higher crime rates among people of color. Churchill tells his readers that in 1980 the CIA operated in Jamaica "subverting military and police officials into undermining and ultimately deposing the liberal left government of Michael Manley." Actually, Manley did charge that his political opponent, Edward Seaga, was supported by the CIA, but Manley was not deposed; he lost the 1980 election, then returned to power after winning the 1989 election.
In short, the Jeffries case affirms that Regent concern about the disruptive effects of Churchill's hate speech was a lawful, constitutional grounds for commencing an investigation of Churchill's academic record. Although the University of Colorado's administration had repeatedly failed to take action in response to formal complaints about Churchill, the Regents' investigation is under no stare decisis requirement to emulate the administration's errors. Nor are the Regents obliged to ignore additional, substantial evidence of misconduct which has been uncovered by the media in recent weeks. The media have a First Amendment right to write articles and produce radio programs on subjects of interest to their audience and themselves. Churchill has no First Amendment right to silence the media simply because media interest in him was initially provoked by his mean-spirited essay celebrating the 9/11 attacks. Nor are the Regents or the CU administration required by the First Amendment to blind themselves to the new evidence of Churchill's misconduct which the Colorado media have been exposing on an almost-daily basis.
Churchill should not be fired because he is a hate-monger, but the CU Regents have the legitimate authority to investigate whether Churchill's hate-mongering disrupts the University of Colorado, and they have no duty to ignore evidence which is brought forward by third parties that Ward Churchill is an academic fraud. Nor are the Regents obliged to ignore the catastrophic liability that CU could face if one of Churchill's acolytes follows Churchill's instructions to perpetrate a 9/11 style terrorist attack.
The CU 199, however, simply elide these issues. Some of the 199 have impressive records of scholarship in their own specialties; others appear to be politically correct hacks. But the terrible judgement of 199 faculty members in attempting to protect a bully who is unfit to teach in any institution, let alone a state's flagship university, will provide prospective students and parents with further reason to doubt that true intellectual diversity and freedom can be found at CU Boulder.