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Feb 6, 2005 7:17 am


Some Ward Churchill Links and Comments ...



I have updated this list of links to discussion of Professor Ward Churchill's work and the controversy at the University of Colorado. The discussions seem liveliest at the points where several of our academic colleagues characterize others of us as a"hack".

As this piece in the Rocky Mountain News suggests, Churchill's tenured position on the faculty seems safe, if the thirty day inquiry ordered by Colorado's Board of Regents is restricted to his work. Other commentators, however, point out that, if the investigation extends beyond that to inquiry about his claims to be a Native American and it could be shown that he is not, Churchill could be vulnerable on grounds that he has misrepresented himself. His claims on that score do seem tenuous, as I've seen indications in some places that he claims to be 3/16th and other places that he claims to be 1/16th Cherokee. Will ethnic studies reduce us to re-affirming the New South's"one drop" rule? As Michael Tinkler points out, it would be an odd result, given the fact that Churchill's scheduled topic at Hamilton College was to have been -- not 9/11 -- but prisons and Native American rights.

Jim Adams,"Churchill Controversial on Two Fronts," Indian Country Today, 3 Feb.
Stephen Bainbridge,"Voltaire and Ward Churchill," Professor Bainbridge, 4 Feb.
Timothy Burke,"Off the Hook," Easily Distracted, 2 Feb.(Margaret Soltan at University Diaries calls"Off the Hook" a"Rim Shot".)

Oscar Chamberlain,"Writing as if the Malevolent Read," Cliopatria, 3 Feb.
Sherman Dorn,"Ward Churchill Fallout" and"Admirable Consistency and the Morality of Universities". Feb 3, 5.
Henry Farrell,"Hate Filled Stupidity from Right Leaning Academics," and"Academic Freedoms and Ward Churchill," Crooked Timber, 2, 4 Feb.
Mark Grimsley,"Little Eichmans, Parts I, II, III & IV," War Historian, 3 Feb., Part V coming; and scroll down.
John Holbo,"Sigh ..." Crooked Timber, 4 Feb. (Fontana Labs at Unfogged declares"John Holbo: My Hero").

Scott Jaschik,"Showdown in Colorado," Inside Higher Ed, 3 Feb.
Robert KC Johnson,"Contrasting Hamilton and Colorado," Cliopatria, 2 Feb.
D. B. Light,"The Academic Left Revisited," Light Seeking Light, 1 Feb; and The Churchill Affair, Ramifications," 3 Feb.
T. R. Reid,"Professor Under Fire for 9/11 Comments," Washington Post, 5 Feb.
Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit, 28 Jan, 3 Feb, 4 Feb.
Michael Tinkler,"Academic Freedom =/= Speaking Engagements," Cranky Professor, 5 Feb.
Eugene Volokh at The Volokh Conspiracy, 4 Feb (and scroll up).

At Z-Net, Ward Churchill responds to his critics, 31 Jan and 2 Feb.
Kevin Drum's"Pack Journalism" at Political Animal, 5 Feb, is an excellent review of how the Ward Churchill story built in the national press.
Related stories, Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News, 2, 3, 4, 5 Feb.

According to the Denver Post, after a meeting of the University's trustees,"A 30-day review of Ward Churchill's speeches and writings would determine whether the American Indian Movement activist and tenured professor would be removed from his post, Interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano said."




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Ralph E. Luker - 2/6/2005

Jon, I disagree with you about that. If Joe Ellis could be suspended for a year and his endowed chair taken away (_after_ his having served as dean of the college) for misleading students into thinking that he was a veteran of the civil rights movement and Viet Nam, there are clearly grounds for suspending Ward Churchill who represents himself as a Native American if that can be shown to be a misrepresentation. If it could, I don't know that it means the loss of his job, but Volokh and others believe that there is plenty of ground in that for penalty.


Jonathan Dresner - 2/6/2005

It's highly unlikely that ethnicity is written into the job description under which Churchill was hired, and unless there were other candidates passed over because of ethnicity (my understanding of EEO procedures is that it only becomes an issue in tiebreaking, officially), it seems unlikely that there's any grounds on which to hold his misrepresentations, if such they be, against him in regard to his employment.


Sherman Jay Dorn - 2/5/2005

No offense taken. It's hard to keep track of blog entries, especially if far-flung colleagues are likely to tease you for not being a completist.


Robert KC Johnson - 2/5/2005

Quite right. The material about his ethnicity claims seems to have come to light only after the original inquiry was announced, so they might have to do another one.

I was thinking about the "one drop" rule, too, that you mentioned in your post. It's ironic that ethnic/Af-Am/women's studies departments, whose foundations often came about because of a desire to move beyond the racism of the past, have helped resurrect it in a different form.

And the Washington Post has a piece on Churchill in today's paper: he got off on a charge of disrupting a Columbus Day parade on the grounds that the parade constituted "hate speech"!


Ralph E. Luker - 2/5/2005

No slight intended, Sherman (if I may), I assure you. You did the appropriate thing by calling my attention to them in comments here. Thanks.


Sherman Jay Dorn - 2/5/2005

Hey, I've written a screed or two as well. A few sentences might even be readable, even though I'm a left-leaning academic. ;-)


Ralph E. Luker - 2/5/2005

I don't understand exactly how these things work, KC, but there may be a case that the inquiry ordered by the Board of Regents has _no_ mandate to inquire into whether Churchill has misrepresented his ethnicity -- that it has restricted the inquiry into a review of his work. If that's the case, then it seems to me that the Board might have to order an altogether separate inquiry in order to get at issues where Churchill may be vulnerable. I am reminded here that Emory's directives to the outside task force of scholars inquiring into Michael Bellesiles _Arming America_ rather carefully targetted precisely those issues on which Emory officials believed Bellesiles to be most vulnerable.
I think that both you and Tim are correct in suggesting that the more important issues appear to be getting overlooked in the grandstanding about Churchill. Clearly, there are some rather bad decisions being made on some campuses about who will be invited to speak on what issues; and, on the other end, there are legitimate questions to be raised about the criteria used for initial hiring and subsequent tenure decisions.


Robert KC Johnson - 2/5/2005

The two pieces published in today's Rocky Mtn News (by Volokh and by Univ. of Colorado Law professor Paul Campos are right on.

I agree with Volokh on all four counts: 1.) that it's appropriate to condemn a tenured professor whose writing compared the victims of the WTC attacks to Nazis (and, despite his later "clarification," Churchill's original piece didn't distinguish among the victims); 2.) that it's appropriate to remove Churchill from an administrative position; 3.) that firing him would be a disastrous mistake, and the precedent of breaking tenure would eventually be used to rob the academy of much of the intellectual diversity it currently possesses; 4.) if WC has lied about his Indian heritage, he should be disciplined.

And Campos is absolutely right: Bill Owens and the CO Republican legislators have completely blown this case. Instead of demanding Churchill's head, they should have been demanding an inquiry into what sort of criteria could ever have been used to justify hiring such a figure, and whether such criteria are regularly employed at the Univ. of Colorado.

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