July 24, 2007

CU President Hank Brown's Letter To The CU Community

Not available at the CU site (modified, but not in this form):
July 24, 2007

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students of the University of Colorado,

The Board of Regents today voted to accept my recommendation to dismiss Professor Ward Churchill from the faculty.

I made the recommendation for the good of the university. CU’s success depends upon its reputation for academic integrity. A public research university such as ours requires public faith that each faculty member’s professional activities and search for truth are conducted according to the high standards on which CU’s reputation rests.

We are accountable to those who have a stake in the university: the people of Colorado who contribute $200 million annually in tax dollars, the federal entities that provide some $640 million annually in research funding, the donors who gave us more than $130 million this year to enhance academic quality, the alumni who want to maintain the value of their degrees, the faculty and staff who expect their colleagues to act with integrity, and the students who trust that faculty who teach them meet the high professional standards of the university and the profession.

Given the record of the case and findings of Professor Churchill’s faculty peers, I determined that allowing him to remain on the faculty would cast a shadow on our reputation for academic integrity.

Throughout the case, we have adhered to shared governance procedures as determined by the CU Faculty Senate Constitution and Bylaws and adopted by the Board of Regents. During the course of two-plus years, Professor Churchill presented his position in writing, in person, with his attorney and with witnesses of his choosing. He was afforded full due process.

More than 20 tenured faculty members (from CU and other universities) on three separate panels conducted a thorough review of his work and found that the evidence shows Professor Churchill engaged in research misconduct, and that it required serious sanction. The record of the case shows a pattern of serious, repeated and deliberate research misconduct that falls below the minimum standard of professional integrity, including fabrication, falsification, improper citation and plagiarism. No university can abide such serious academic misconduct.

Professor Churchill fabricated historical events and sought to support his fabrications by manufacturing articles under other names. His publications show more than just sloppy citations or using the work of others without crediting them. The Investigative Committee of the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct found multiple instances of falsification, fabrication and plagiarism. Any student engaging in such a wide range of academic misconduct would be seriously sanctioned. We should hold our faculty to a high standard of professionalism

While Professor Churchill’s peers on the faculty panels were unanimous in finding research misconduct, views on the appropriate sanction varied. Some faculty recommended dismissal while others suggested a less severe penalty. My obligation as president is to recommend to the Board of Regents an appropriate sanction that is for the good of the university.

Some on the Boulder campus and beyond claim Professor Churchill was singled out because of public condemnation of his writing about September 11, 2001. They see this case as a referendum on academic freedom. The university determined early in the process that his speech was not at issue, but that his research was. The prohibition against research misconduct extends to all faculty, regardless of their political views. We cannot abandon our professional standards and exempt faculty members from being accountable for the integrity of their research simply because their views are controversial.

Professor Churchill’s activities not only run counter to the essence of academic freedom, but also threaten its foundation. Academic freedom is intended to protect the exploration and teaching of unpopular, even controversial ideas. But that pursuit must be accompanied by the standards of the profession. Academic freedom does not protect research misconduct. After his research misconduct was identified, Professor Churchill did not admit any errors or come forward to correct the record, as is expected in the profession.

CU’s most important asset is its academic reputation. Professor Churchill’s actions reflect poorly on the University of Colorado, but we will not let the research misconduct of one individual tarnish our reputation. Our faculty members take pride in their work and demonstrate their respect for the high standards of their profession and this university day in and day out. Professor Churchill’s research misconduct is an affront to those who conduct themselves with integrity.

We will remain accountable to those who have high expectations of Colorado’s flagship university. And our faculty will remain true to high professional standards to ensure our reputation for academic integrity remains intact.


Hank Brown


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