Ward Churchill Fired for Academic Misconduct

After years of controversy, Colorado University finally fired Ward Churchill yesterday afternoon.

CU President Hank Brown had earlier recommended the dismissal. In the end, there really wasn’t much choice, Brown said. Churchill “falsified history and fabricated history.” And Churchill “did not express regret, apologize or agree to refrain from this behavior in the future,” Brown said.

Some 25 faculty members on three committees had looked at the evidence against Churchill and found truth in the allegations he violated academic conduct standards, said Pat Hayes, regents’ chairwoman.
“That’s very persuasive,” she said.

Churchill accused officials of orchestrating an “illusion of scholarly research” to justify his firing. “That’s a farce, but more than that, it’s a fraud.”

Regent Cindy Carlisle, who cast the dissenting vote, said she thought firing was too tough a penalty. She agreed with the Privilege and Tenure Committee’s 3-2 vote in May to suspend Churchill for a year without pay.

The controversy was launched in January 2005 with word of a Churchill essay in which he called victims of the 9/11 terror attacks “little Eichmanns,” comparing them to Nazi bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann. He had written the essay shortly after the 2001 attacks. CU officials ruled that Churchill’s essay was protected by the U.S. Constitution.

But the spotlight on Churchill revealed numerous complaints of academic misconduct that had been raised by other academics, but never addressed by CU. He was accused of plagiarism, inventing historical incidents and ghostwriting essays which he then cited in his footnotes in support of his own views. Those allegations were the ones that brought dismissal today.

This will drag on in the courts for quite some time but, assuming there’s no settlement for the sake of expediency, the university will win. Like Steven Taylor, I’ve defended Churchill’s right to be an idiot from the beginning; protecting the most iconoclastic is as essential in upholding academic freedom as free speech, generally. Likewise, we agree that “systematic fabrication and plagiarism is the unforgivable sin in academia, and CU did the right thing in firing him.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Steve Plunk says:

    At what point, for the sake of the students, does a university need to dismiss professors for just being “idiots”? For gosh sakes doesn’t the school owe something to the students who have to put up with the loonies that seemingly every college has?

    Tenured or not, students are the ones getting the raw deal by having these kooks holed up in some quirky department twisting minds and ogling coeds. I’ve seen ’em and I’m sure most everyone else has too.

    Some reform is due in order to respect the rights of those who the colleges and universities and there for, students.

  2. James Joyner says:

    It’s a slippery slope. My guess is far more conservatives would be labeled “idiots” by their peers than liberals. Indeed, Churchill’s “Little Eichmans” comment would probably get stronger support among most faculties than a professor arguing that Bush is doing a good job and we need to stay in Iraq to get the job done.

  3. Anon says:

    It’s interesting to me to see how politicized other fields are. In engineering, for the large majority of my faculty colleagues, I have no idea if they are liberal or conservative.