Morgan Liddick: We won’t miss you, Mr. Churchill
July 30, 2007
So the University of Colorado has finally bid adieu to Ward Churchill. Good, goodbye, and good riddance. Let’s get one thing straight: Mr. Churchill was not fired over any free speech issue. He was fired because he was found by his peers to be a liar, a fraud and a cheat.He violated his employer’s rules regarding performance, and although he has desperately tried to change the subject, he got the sack for not measuring up. Period. Let’s review, shall we? Following a prolonged examination of his work by the Investigative Committee of the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct at the University of Colorado at Boulder, they issued a statement in May 2006 saying that Mr. Churchill had committed falsification, fabrication, plagiarism; failed to comply with established standards and engaged in “serious deviations from accepted practices in research.” These violations were considered “deliberate” and “serious.” The committee noted that instances “recurred throughout the essays they examined.” This is a rather blistering indictment of a celebrity ultra-liberal by a group of fellow academics. That fact alone speaks volumes about the extent and outrageousness of Mr. Churchill’s violations.
What does the University of Colorado say about academic misconduct? The faculty handbook is straightforward: “A faculty member may be dismissed when, in the judgment of the Board of Regents constitutional and statutory authority, the good of the university requires such action. The grounds for dismissal shall be demonstrable professional incompetence, neglect of duty, insubordination …” conviction of felony and several other behaviors. Pretty clearly, Mr. Churchill’s activities meet the “demonstrable professional incompetence” measure. And there is the “good of the university” provision. Given the intense negative publicity Mr. Churchill creates by his words and actions, this alone might have been sufficient for dismissal. A vicious, abusive sociopath will create problems for his institution, given a soapbox and a guaranteed job. Which brings us to Mr. Churchill’s lawsuit over purported violation of his “free speech” rights. This is a transparent attempt at blackmail: If Mr. Churchill and his allies were really such proponents of “free speech,” why have they not been in the forefront of the campaign against the imposition of politically-correct speech codes on campuses around the country? Where were they, for example, when Harvard University president Lawrence Summers was removed from office following a statement he made in 2005? Or, perhaps some people’s speech is more protected than others’ … Mr. Churchill’s protest that investigation into his shoddy research is illegal since it was triggered by the uproar over his comments about the victims of 9/11 would be comical were it not so pathetic. To use a shopworn but appropriate analogy, this is akin to saying that because a policeman pulls a man over for driving erratically, he must ignore the bullet-riddled body in the back seat. Pure twaddle.
Then there is Mr. Churchill’s support among students at the University of Colorado. One might expect this. Anyone who remembers their college years will easily recall the overwhelmingly liberal atmosphere, the pressure to conform, the irresistible charm of pummeling the popular political punching-bags of the day – especially if it meant a demonstration and time off from classes. Not to mention the fatal attraction of faculty who were daring enough (after receiving tenure, naturally) to excoriate “the man.” Heady times, indeed. But the situation is more serious today. Often, students arrive at our universities ill-equipped to sniff out and challenge the people who are there to propagandize, rather than educate. This problem is exacerbated by the paucity of liberal arts courses which demand rigorous analysis and the application of logic to their subjects; instead, how one feels about a topic is often of most importance. Under these circumstances, any instructor who floats along on the prevailing left wind while providing students entertaining lectures seasoned with a titillating dash of controversy will be judged great, regardless of how much hate-America-first venom he or she drips into eager and open ears. I say he or she, because Ward Churchill is not alone. Other of his ilk abound in the academy, protected by the invisible shield of tenure, their work lent the patina of respectability by their institutions. They will be undeterred by the example made of Mr. Churchill, whom they see as a victim.
They will not remark that the findings against him would be grounds for dismissal, were he a student at the University of Colorado. In their eyes, his firing was unconscionable. Which is part of the ongoing problem. Finally, our representative on the Board of Regents, Cindy Carlisle, was the sole vote for Mr. Churchill when it came time for a decision. Perhaps we all ought to ask why.Yes, and: week 31 of the Democrat Congress’ War in Iraq. Will they stop voting funds? Don’t hold your breath …Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, comment on this column at http://www.summitdaily.com.