Ethnic Studies Chair Questions Churchill Report
From the People's Republic of Boulder:
The chairman of the University of Colorado department where Ward Churchill works urged CU officials Friday to take a long, hard look at their motives for investigating Churchill and warned any action against him could have a negative effect on faculty.Thankfully, as evidenced by the following editorial, not all CU faculty support Churchill, and certainly disavow his research "methods" as incompatible with CU's mission, or academia in general:
Ethnic studies chairman Albert Ramirez also called on administrators to publicly affirm his department, which has received numerous phone calls and e-mails - many of them "racist and extremely acrimonious" - since the Churchill controversy began more than a year ago.
"The university can no longer continue to remain silent in this regard, unless it wants to send a message to other academic departments on campus that, when they are at risk and under attack by a vocal segment of the bureaucratic and political establishment, they, too, are on their own," Ramirez wrote in a 3 1/2 page letter to CU leaders.
Ramirez did not say in his letter whether he thinks any action should be taken against Churchill. In an interview, he said he preferred to let the process - which will likely include a lawsuit - run its course.
. . .
In his letter, Ramirez referred to an analogy in the committee's report that compared the Churchill investigation to police pulling over a driver because the officer didn't like a bumper sticker on the driver's car.
While the reason for stopping the driver may be improper, if that driver were speeding, no court would think it were improper to issue a ticket, the panel concluded.
Similarly, the committee concluded that Churchill's misconduct was so egregious he should be punished, even if the reasons for the investigation were questionable.
But Ramirez argued CU officials must consider those circumstances more deeply, and the possibility that firing or suspending Churchill might have a chilling effect on other professors' free speech.
"The university's decision will have a significant effect on the entire university community," he wrote. "The faculty, in particular, must remain reassured by the results of this investigative process that they will not someday be targeted because of their own 'bumper stickers.'"
In short, the committee found two cases where Churchill extensively plagiarized the work of others. They found other cases where he first wrote articles under a false name, and then in a later work cited those earlier articles as providing independent confirmation for his own claims.As a professor and chair of the CU philosophy department, Robert Pasnau can certainly and credibly speak from authority. He can also attest to the disdain that the academic community can and should have for indiviuals who besmirch their good name for political gain. These infractions were not made in the course of political tirades such as Churchill's infamous 9/11 "little Eichmanns", but in the matter of serious academic research. Employing sock puppets (writing under another's name), fabricating sources in footnotes, and plagiarism are serious accusations, and having been found guilty of violating established academic norms that safeguard the search for truth and the credibility of academics everywhere, Churchill should be dismissed. His subsequent lawsuit would be much harder to prove, given his guilt. And as a former CU graduate student in History, as well as an undergraduate (class of 2001) at CU, it is with great pleasure that at least one of the faculty suggests his dismissal--although it would be much more heartening if the same number who advocated dropping the investigation over a year ago would now step up, acknowledge that Churchill fooled them, and call for his resignation.
They found a great many places where apparently detailed footnotes turned out on close inspection to offer no support whatsoever for the claims being made, and found that Churchill continued to stick with these false sources in later work even after being confronted in print with their inadequacy.
Assessing the cumulative impact of these tactics, the committee describes "a pattern and consistent research stratagem to cloak extreme, unsupportable, propaganda-like claims of fact that support Professor Churchill's legal and political claims with the aura of authentic scholarly research by referencing apparently (but not actually) supportive independent third-party sources."
The fact that this disparate group of highly distinguished scholars could reach its verdict with complete unanimity — save for the final, delicate question of what sanction to impose — should give one a great deal of confidence in their verdict. No such confidence can be taken from Churchill's own statement (available on the Camera's Web site). A careful reading of the original report, next to his response, shows him to have misstated and ignored the committee's findings at every stage. Indeed, one might almost laugh at the way his slipshod responses re-enact the very sorts of intellectual failings that the report originally highlighted.
One might laugh, that is, if the whole affair were not so depressing. Perhaps its most unfortunate aspect, beyond the immediate and very serious damage to CU, is the impression it seems to have left in some quarters that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Here my own experience is relevant. In the course of my duties evaluating the work of my colleagues, I have never encountered a single instance of fraud or misconduct, or even the bare allegation of such. Additionally, in all of the graduate seminars I have conducted, and dissertations I have read, I have never seen anything even remotely resembling this sort of conduct. Furthermore, over many years of evaluating thousands of job applicants, reviewing their qualifications with the greatest care, I have never seen or heard of even the shadow of this sort of behavior. Finally, in all my years of scholarly research, over the countless articles and books that I have read, I have never encountered anything of this kind.
Happily, it does not fall upon me to decide what sort of penalty is appropriate in this case. But were such misconduct discovered among my own faculty, or in my own field at large, I would be the first to seek that person's dismissal.