An important announcement from...
National Project in Defense of Dissent
and Critical Thinking in Academia
Opposition Mounts as University of Colorado President
Calls for Ward Churchill to be Dismissed
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:Reggie Dylan: (626) 319-1730
Matthew Abraham: (773) 682-9322
In a letter to the Board of Regents, University of Colorado President Hank
Brown has called for the dismissal of tenured Ethnic Studies Professor
Ward Churchill. His recommendation goes beyond that
of the faculty investigative committee that examined
charges of research misconduct; and of the faculty
Privilege and Tenure (P&T) committee that recently
heard Churchill’s appeal. Gov. Bill Ritter of Colorado
joined Brown in calling for the firing of Churchill,
as his predecessor Bill Owens did two years earlier.
The Board of Regents is expected to make a final
decision in this case at a public hearing some time in
A growing number of scholars see CU’s
investigation of Churchill’s scholarship as completely
illegitimate and a dangerous precedent threatening
dissent and critical thinking in the universities.
The CU - Boulder chapter of the American Association
of University Professors (AAUP) has written that "we
believe that the investigation now is widely perceived
to be a pretext for firing Churchill when the real
reason for dismissal is his politics." The
investigation was launched in the wake of controversy
provoked by an essay Churchill wrote after 9/11.
Churchill noted in response to Brown’s
letter that "the University had received no formal or
written complaints about my scholarship when it
initiated this ‘investigation.’ All of the
allegations investigated were either solicited or
brought directly by University administrators." He
also noted that "The Investigative Committee charged
with conducting a ‘fact-finding, nonadversarial’
investigation was chaired by law professor Mimi
Wesson, who - in February 2005 - had compared me to
'charismatic male celebrity wrongdoers' like O.J.
Simpson, Michael Jackson and Bill Clinton, and had
already come up with the faulty 'traffic stop' analogy
the Committee used to justify its conclusions." The
committee included no American Indians or experts in
American Indian Studies, and scholars that had used
Churchill's research in their own work were removed
from the committee.
The report of the committee hearing
Churchill’s appeal found that Churchill proved by a
"preponderance of the evidence" that "but for" his
exercise of his protected first amendment rights, the
subsequent investigation of his scholarship would
never have been initiated.
In a recent open letter to colleagues
around the country Dr. Margaret LeCompte, President of
the Boulder AAUP Chapter, wrote: "What has happened at
the University of Colorado makes a mockery of both due
process and academic freedom protections, AND what
faculty believe. It is a cruel violation of the
delicate balance between faculty rights and
administrative responsibilities… The entire process
was a sham---imitating the form, but not the intent,
of due process and fair, objective, scholarly
Two faculty groups that have examined the
report of the investigative committee claim that the
report is seriously flawed. In an unprecedented
action, both have now filed formal charges of academic
misconduct against the members of the faculty
committee. The most recent group to do so, made up of
principally Indigenous scholars from around the
country and Canada, documented "many instances of
fraud, fabrication, plagiarism and/or serious
deviation from accepted scholarly practices" which
"demonstrate a consistent pattern of deliberate
misrepresentation intended to discredit Professor
Churchill’s larger body of scholarship." Eric
Cheyfitz, Ernest I. White Professor of American
Studies and Humane Letters at Cornell University, has
found "the Report turns what is a debate about
controversial issues of identity and genocide in
Indian studies into an indictment of one position in
The implications of this case go beyond
the threat to Churchill's reputation and career, as
serious as those are. The attack on Churchill is seen
by many in academia as part of a much broader attack
on academic freedom and critical thinking and dissent.
Dr. LeCompte notes, "It is not limited to Colorado. In
fact, it is a test case by the US right wing to
emasculate faculty rights in US universities."
This is illustrated by the recent denial of tenure
for DePaul University political scientist Norman
Finkelstein. Though he was supported by his
department, Finkelstein was denied tenure after an
intense campaign spearheaded by Harvard Law School's
Alan M. Dershowitz, who called Finkelstein "worse than
Churchill." Many DePaul faculty and others were
alarmed at Dershowitz’s heavy-handed tactics and saw
them as an attempt to punish one side of a
controversial debate. Finkelstein said that DePaul’s
decision was based on "transparently political
grounds" and was an "egregious violation" of academic
Churchill noted in his response to Brown’s
letter that "President Brown, his new VP Michael
Poliakoff, and Regent Tom Lucero, like Bill Owens, are
key players in Lynne Cheney’s American Council of
Trustees and Alumni (ACTA). ACTA and similar
neoconservative groups have received generous funding
[from] Castle Rock (Coors), Scaife, Bradley and Olin
foundations to eliminate Ethnic, Gender and Peace
Studies Programs and to purge higher education of
those who think critically, challenge historical
orthodoxy, or otherwise threaten the status quo."
Opposition to this impending firing has
been increasing nationally, as more and more academics
recognize the stakes involved in the Churchill case.
An open letter signed by numerous prominent scholars,
including Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Derrick Bell and
Immanuel Wallerstein was published in the New York
Review of Books in April. Scores of others have
written letters of support, and there was a recent
Emergency National Forum in Boulder of academics and
supporters. The Society of American Law Teachers has
written a letter arguing against a firing.
Richard Falk, visiting Distinguished
Professor at University of California, Santa Barbara
recently wrote: "All of us who value academic freedom
should now stand in full solidarity with Ward
Churchill. The outcome of his case at the University
of Colorado is the best litmus test we have to tell
whether the right-wing’s assaults on learning and
liberty will stifle campus life in this country. Never
in my lifetime have we in America more needed the sort
of vigorous debate and creative controversy that Ward
Churchill's distinguished career epitomizes. We all
stand to lose if his principled defense fails."
# # #
Matthew Abraham - Department of English, De Paul
William Ayers - Distinguished Professor of Education
and Senior University Scholar, University of Illinois
Derrick A Bell - Visiting Professor of Constitutional
Law, New York University School of Law.
Timothy Brennan - Departments of English and Cultural
Studies & Comparative Literature, University of
Renate Bridenthal - Emerita Professor of History,
Brooklyn College, The City University of New York.
Bob Buzzanco - Department of History, University of
Dana Cloud - Associate Professor of Communication
Studies at the University of Texas (Austin).
Drucilla Cornell - Professor in the Departments of Law
and Political Science at Rutgers University.
Sandi E Cooper - Professor of History, College of
Staten Island and the Graduate School, The City
University of New York.
Richard Delgado - University Distinguished Professor
of Law and Derrick Bell Fellow, University of
Richard A Falk - Albert G. Milbank Professor of
International Law and Practice at Princeton
University; Visiting Distinguished Professor (since
2002), Global Studies, University of California, Santa
Seth Kahn - Assistant Professor of English, West
Chester University of PA.
Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies,
Middle East Institute, Columbia University.
Vinay Lal - Department of History, University of
California, Los Angeles.
Gary Leupp - Professor of History at Tufts University,
and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion.
Henry Silverman - Professor and Chairperson Emeritus,
Department of History, Michigan State University.
Immanuel Wallerstein - Senior Research Scholar, Yale
Tim Wise - Author of "White Like Me: Reflections on
Race from a Privileged Son," and "Affirmative Action:
Racial Preference in Black and White."