Ward Churchill, the controversial former professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has won an important verdict in court. A jury found that he had been wrongly terminated by the university after his public repudiation for referring to the victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks as “little Eichmanns.”
The university dismissed Churchill in 2007, but not for the article. While the governor and many other politicians called for his firing, a board of professors correctly ruled that academic freedom and free speech principles barred the ethnic studies professor’s termination over his article. Instead, it fired him plagiarism in his research. However, Churchill argued that this was simply a pretense and that he was fired for his political views.
The 2002 essay was entitled, “Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens” and focused on U.S. foreign policy. In the essay, Churchill compares the victims to Nazi Adolf Eichmann, saying that they were “little Eichmanns” who were the “technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire.”
The verdict will likely lead to Churchill’s demand for restatement. Notably, the jury awarded Churchill only $1, a surprising and interesting decision in light of its finding of wrongful termination. However, District Court Chief Judge Larry J. Naves gave both sides 30 days to present motions before he rules on whether Churchill will get his job back or will receive back pay.
The degree of national pressure placed on the university to fire Churchill made many academics feel uncomfortable. He was hardly a sympathetic character for most professors but there seemed little question that the scrutiny over his scholarship was prompted by the controversy. Academic freedom and tenure are critical parts of our academic system to allow professors to challenge orthodoxy and majoritarian views. Bad ideas are defeated through reasoned debate not punitive actions within the academic community. Many faculty around the country felt that the university president moved too quickly and too eagerly to accommodate the public outrage and that the later termination had the look of a pretext.
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8 thoughts on “Ward Churchill Wins Major Verdict of Wrongful Termination”
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What Mike A said.
The University of Colorado was “done in” by its own incompetence. From hiring to firing, they showed an untutored inability to divine what it was they found so objectionable. If they had only considered the trove of deceit evident in Churchill’s potboilers, Agents of Repression and The Cointelpro Papers, the case of proving that a scoundrel cannot be trusted with teaching our young people could have been a slam dunk. Better yet, the University should have taken notes from American Indian Mafia, a singular source from which many can learn.
Churchill is as dirty as they come, but nothing he has written is as contemptible as his slimy cover-up missives on behalf of American Indian Movement (AIM) criminals. The most serious allegation comes from former FBI Chief, Joe Trimbach, author of Mafia. Trimbach alleges that Churchill is not only an academic imposter, he is also a party to murder cover-up. This argument is based on Churchill’s historical accounts which divert attention away from his buddy, AIM leader Russell Means, and his role in the AIM-ordered execution of fellow member Anna Mae Aquash. It is hard to believe that Churchill innocently misreports his allegation that the FBI was behind the murder and that his political soul mate, the AIM firebrand who makes no mention of Anna Mae in his rather lengthy autobiography, who was a no-show at her funeral, and who admits the victim was taken to his brother’s house the night they shot her in the head, had no part in the conspiracy.
University officials may be forced to reap what they have grown, and to the great detriment of their students, navigate the waters of responsible scholarship with a greasy-haired aider and abettor around their necks. Rumor has it that Churchill may even be called as a hostile witness in the upcoming trial of the alleged triggerman in the case. The trial begins May 12 in federal court in Rapid City. How many students will rush to defend their vindicated hero?
First Holder’s stand for principle over expediency and justice over winning, and now this. I agree with Mike A that the jury felt both sides were wrong here. It’s a “QB VII” moment when the jury decides in your favor, and awards you next to nothing for your damage to reputation. I am gratified that the jury looked past the undesirability of the litigant and upheld the principle. Makes one proud to be an American, and that’s a feeling I needed to feel more often in the past eight years.
Mike A. and Lindy Lou got it right. Churchill is a pompous buffoon who lets his political pre-judgments interfere with his logic. However, considering some of the professors I’ve had, he was probably wrongfully terminated for his outspoken views and because of national pressure and so deserves his job back. I think too Mike is on the money regarding the $1 award because his testimony was no doubt sanctimonious and insufferable.
That is an interesting juxtaposition. Mike A. said this a while back and I’m writing from memory but he said, the worthy enemy of an idea is another idea. What this man said is laughable as are the words of Ann Coulter. But I think they are best countered with a good laugh and a laying out of the facts.
Juries usually get it right in civil matters. My gut tells me their logic was something like the following: (a) The university wrongfully terminated him in an act of political cowardice; (b) He is entitled to only $1.00 because he is a moron.
An academic loses his job, Ann Coulter sells books with her comments about the 911 victims and “grief-0-nazis” or whatever it was. This video captures the ardor of her fans.
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