June 13, 2006

CU Committee: Fire Churchill

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**Update--Churchill responds--full statement here--(video, with response from CU and Churchill's lawyer)--Committee concludes stricter reviews needed:
Churchill has repeatedly denied misconduct and he did so again Tuesday.

"Baloney. That's my one-word-response," he said. "The basic situation here is there was a call ... for my termination clear back last February, whether or not it was legal. They're willing to take the heat and go to court if necessary and stand behind an illegitimate investigation."
Committee findings:
"unanimous in concluding that the severity of the infractions, their repeated and deliberate nature, their impact on the scholarly enterprise, and the apparent unwillingness of Professor Churchill to acknowledge the violations combine to exhibit 'conduct which falls below minimum standards of professional integrity'"

"The SCRM strongly disagrees with critics of the Investigative Committee report who have suggested that Professor Churchill’s violations were isolated, mundane, or trivial. To the contrary, we conclude that the violations are extreme examples of research misconduct, particularly in this area of study. Providing misleading or incorrect citations, bending accounts to fit one’s desired interpretation, or simply making up information all strike at the foundation of scholarly historical work"


Churchill, in presumably happier times.


Professor Ward Churchill's writings about the victims of 9/11 sparked an outcry that led to an investigation of his claims of being American Indian and of allegations of plagiarism. (Post / Hyoung Chang)
Looks like the smiles are gone. . .

The second University of Colorado committee recommended that Prof. Ward Churchill be fired:
A majority of the University of Colorado committee leading an inquiry into Ward Churchill recommended today that the ethnic studies professor be fired.
Of the 11 voting members, two said he should be suspended without pay for two years, while two others recommended a five-year suspension without pay. Another member of committee was absent, and the panel's chairman is a non-voting member.
In a 22-page report, the committee — made up of 10 CU faculty, a staff member and a graduate student — agreed with the findings of an investigation released last month. That investigation concluded Churchill "committed serious, repeated and deliberate research misconduct," including plagiarism and fabrication of material.
. . .
The recommendation from the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct will now be sent to interim provost Susan Avery and Todd Gleeson, dean of the college of arts and sciences.
Avery and Gleeson then will make separate recommendations to interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano, who will have the final say on whether Churchill should be fired.

An exact timeline for that decision has not been determined, but could come within weeks.
Read the committee's report here:
Conclusion and Recommendations

After reviewing carefully the report of the Investigative Committee and Professor Churchill’s response, the members of the SCRM were unanimous in concluding that the severity of the infractions, their repeated and deliberate nature, their impact on the scholarly enterprise, and the apparent unwillingness of Professor Churchill to acknowledge the violations combine to exhibit “conduct which falls below minimum standards of professional integrity,” as specified in the Laws of the Regents.

In deliberating about appropriate sanctions, SCRM was not unanimous in its recommendations, nor did it feel any obligation to reach a consensus. The SCRM’s rules do not require a consensus; moreover, since the committee’s role is to provide recommendations to the ultimate decision makers, we believe that representing the range of perspectives of the committee members will be most useful to those decision makers. With that in mind, six of the voting members of the committee recommended dismissal, two recommended suspension without pay for a five-year term, and one recommended suspension without pay for a two-year term. (Our recommendations were the result of a secret ballot. As with the Investigative Committee, we agreed among ourselves not to disclose to anyone our individual votes.)
The SCRM studiously avoided the "9-11" and "free speech" issues to avoid any perception of bias alleged by Churchill:
In the Churchill case, the SCRM shares the concerns expressed by the Investigative Committee regarding the timing and context in which the allegations against Professor Churchill were raised. However, at each step of the process, the SCRM was careful to restrict its review to the allegations of research misconduct, without consideration of issues that have received widespread attention by others interested in Professor Churchill’s work. In particular, the SCRM’s deliberations were devoid of any discussions of Professor Churchill’s “9/11 essay,” or of issues of academic freedom or free speech in general. Rather, our work was specifically and narrowly focused on the findings of the Investigative Committee with regard to research misconduct.
They also take great pains to point out the egregious nature of Churchill's transgressions, and the magnitude of their impact on scholarly work--not to mention the credibility of academia in general:
The SCRM strongly disagrees with critics of the Investigative Committee report who have suggested that Professor Churchill’s violations were isolated, mundane, or trivial. To the contrary, we conclude that the violations are extreme examples of research misconduct, particularly in this area of study. Providing misleading or incorrect citations, bending accounts to fit one’s desired interpretation, or simply making up information all strike at the foundation of scholarly historical work. Scholars rely upon the accuracy of each others’ work to create a cumulative and incremental basis for extending our understanding of events. When that foundation turns out to be based on intentionally fallacious and misleading information, the usefulness of subsequent information is called into question and the work of many scholars may be compromised. The SCRM also was persuaded that making unfounded accusations and fabricating support for them, such as, for example, that the US Army intentionally collected smallpox-infected blankets from an Army infirmary to spread the disease to native populations, is serious by any standard. It not only distorts an already tragic history, but creates a social harm by spreading misinformation under the guise of scholarly research, injures the very cause being promoted, and casts doubt on other scholarship in the area.
Anyone familiar with the academic profession knows the seriousness with which issues like plagiarism and citation are treated. Historical arguments often hinge on the corroborating citations made to other scholars' works--and being able to trust another's assertions as grounded in fact and responsible interpretation is paramount. Inventing facts, plagiarizing, using "sock puppets" and any other form of research misconduct tarnish not only the individual's standing, but those of colleagues and other members of the field, should those transgressions go unpunished.

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