Churchill lawyer demands university drop "witch hunt"
DENVER ” Embattled professor Ward Churchill’s attorney demanded the University of Colorado drop its “latest round of witch hunting” or else face a federal lawsuit.
Attorney David Lane sent the seven-page letter, which was obtained by The Denver Post, to the school’s attorney on Tuesday. He said the investigation, along with comments made by officials, was damaging Churchill’s reputation and preventing him from fulfilling publishing contracts and speaking engagements.
School officials told The Post they had not seen the letter.
“Let the process decide what happens,” university spokesman Barrie Hartman said, declining further comment.
Churchill, a tenured professor of ethnic studies, angered many people with an essay comparing some Sept. 11 victims to a Nazi. University officials determined he could not be fired for the comments but launched an investigation into allegations about plagiarism and research misconduct.
The Standing Committee on Research Misconduct submitted its report to a faculty committee this week, but the findings won’t be made public until next week.
Lane said the investigation has dragged on too long.
“They can finish their committee work, but this latest round needs to stop,” he said. “It’s not going to be the endless Ward Churchill investigation.”
In his letter, Lane called the yearlong investigation “punishment for his exercise of speech.
“None of the allegations merits inquiry because, even if true, they would not constitute research misconduct,” the letter said.
Boulder chancellor Phil DiStefano plans to publicly announce a decision on Churchill’s fate around June 8. Churchill could be exonerated, reprimanded or lose his tenured position.
A lawsuit accusing administrators of preventing Churchill from speaking on campus was filed in February 2005, shortly after the professor’s essay became widely known. It was dropped after Churchill was allowed to speak, Lane said.
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