Blogs > Liberty and Power > Ward Churchill: The Larry Flynt of Academic Freedom?

Feb 27, 2005 4:17 pm

Ward Churchill: The Larry Flynt of Academic Freedom?

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David Timothy Beito - 3/17/2005

Sad but possibly true but it is still worth a try. I think that keeping Churchill in his job to spout his ravings can be a powerful weapon against speech codes if conservatives and libertarians try to use it (but they generally haven't yet)! They can ask: jow can speech codes possibly be justified if Ward Churchill's academic freedom is protected? Instead, all too many (especially conservatives) are more inclined to join the "get Churchill" lynch mob.

Jonathan Rick - 3/16/2005

> Could it also be said that if professors and students (including many conservatives and libertarians who are currently under siege in higher education) know that if academic freedom protects "even Ward Churchill" they can have greater assurance that their own academic freedom will be secure?

In theory, yes; in practice, no. Of the many consequences on college campuses from the Ward Churchill affair, the one we will not see, at least from my perspective as an undergraduate who is graduating in two months, is an increasing friendliness to libertarians and conservatives. This is because conservatives -- with whom libertarians usually get incorrectly lumped together -- espouse views antithetical to Churchill’s, and consistency, alas, is not one of academe’s virtues today. For one, speech codes (which, to be sure, I think pertain more to students than to professors) aren’t going anywhere.

Roderick T. Long - 2/28/2005

When Wittgenstein heard about a former doctoral candidate who had given up writing his dissertation because he realized he had nothing of importance to say, Wittgenstein said: "For that realization alone they should give him a doctorate!"

Mark Brady - 2/27/2005

I appreciate that your criticism goes beyond the fact that he doesn't have a doctorate but I draw a certain satisfaction from the fact that someone won tenure without a doctorate. There's an awful lot of dreadful doctoral theses out there that should count against their holders and there's also more than a few people without PhDs who would make excellent teachers if they could enter the academy. I have no opinion on whether Ward Churchill is guilty of poor scholarship or even fraud or on the quality of his teaching. I hope he's not guilty of academic fraud if only because it would be a great pity if the media vultures were to get the satisfaction of seeing him exposed as such. As you would guess, I don't share his view of the office workers in the World Trade Center but I do think that Americans should recognize his and (and Malcolm X's) wiser point that Chickens Come Home to Roost.

Steven Horwitz - 2/27/2005

Good point about the fraud David. What troubles me almost as much is the lengths CU went to ignore any semblance of a meaningful tenure review to appoint the guy (with no PhD) to a tenured position, especially after not even checking out whether the counter-offer he said he had was genuine. The tragedy of Ward Churchill is not what he said, but how he ever got into a position to say it.