Lawmakers kill plan that would make it easier to fire professors
DENVER ” Lawmakers killed a plan Tuesday that would have made it easier for colleges to fire tenured faculty after professors strongly objected, calling it a misguided attempt to dismiss an embattled professor who likened some Sept. 11 victims to a Nazi.
Rep. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, said universities have been ignoring an executive order from former Gov. Roy Romer to review tenured professors. King said he wanted a law to force them to comply after University of Colorado regents testified only one tenured professor has been fired in the past nine years.
King denied his bill was aimed at tenured University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, whose essay about the Sept. 11 attacks provoked angry calls for his dismissal.
“This law would bring a better quality education system to the students of Colorado,” he said.
Myron Hulen, head of the American Association of University professors, disagreed. “The elephant in the closet is Ward Churchill,” he said.
He said it’s wrong to target legislation at one person.
“Don’t run a bill that makes me feel I’m under the spotlight,” Hulen told the House Education Committee, which killed the measure (House Bill 1284) on a 9-4 vote.
Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, said the bill would have had no impact on the accusations against Churchill because universities already have post-tenure policies.
“I don’t like this in state law,” said Pommer.
Steve Mumme, spokesman for the Colorado State University chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said most post-tenure review programs at Colorado institutions focus on teaching ability and improving the faculty. He said universities have other ways to deal with the type of allegations now facing Churchill.
CU officials concluded Churchill could not be fired for his essay about Sept. 11 but launched an investigation into allegations of research misconduct. The inquiry is not expected to end until sometime after May.
Churchill has denied the allegations.
He could be fired if the allegations are upheld. He has vowed legal action if that happens.
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