Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Case of Ward Churchill

Ward Churchill, the radical ethnic studies professor at the University of Colorado, was fired Tuesday by the university's board for plagiarism, falsification, and other academic misconduct.

Hank Brown, the president of the university, explained the Churchill decision in
a column at the Rocky Mountain News. Noteworthy is Brown's emphasis that Churchill was fired for his academic conduct, not for his statement saying the 9/11 victims were little Eichmanns:

The faculty found a pattern of serious, repeated and deliberate research misconduct that included fabrication, falsification, improper citation and plagiarism.

Faculty reviewers unanimously agreed that the evidence showed professor Churchill engaged in research misconduct and that it required serious sanction.
Brown's also got a commentary in the Wall Street Journal today, where he described in more detail Churchill's lack of academic integrity:

The panels found that Mr. Churchill rewrote history to fit his own theories. When confronted, he asserted he was not responsible. According to one report, "Professor Churchill has, on more than one occasion, claimed that certain acts that appear to have been his were instead the responsibility of some other actor: his editor or publisher, his assistant, or his former wife and collaborator." The report goes on to note that "we have come to see these claims as emblems of a recurrent refusal to take responsibility for errors . . . and a willingness to blame others for his troubles."

But his case is about far more than academic misconduct. It is about the accountability that public universities must demonstrate. Mr. Churchill's difficulties in facing up to his academic responsibilities are in many ways emblematic of higher education's trouble with accountability. Too often, colleges and universities tend to insulate themselves in ivy-covered buildings and have not been as diligent as necessary to ensure that the academic enterprise is conducted rigorously and honestly. This elitist attitude is simply outdated, and our university has made tenure reforms -- precipitated by the Churchill case -- that will ensure academic integrity.
Brown concludes by calling on professors in the academy to practice personal responsibility and integrity:

Controversy -- especially self-sought controversy -- doesn't immunize a faculty member from adhering to professional standards. If you are a responsible faculty member, you don't falsify research, you don't plagiarize the work of others, you don't fabricate historical events and you don't thumb your nose at the standards of the profession.
Brown focuses on research, but research informs teaching. The academic enterprise not only expands the frontiers of knowledge, but informs generations of the young. The Ward Churchills of American academe practice anti-American indoctrination, from the elite research institutions on down to the averge community college.

Not all professors engage in these practices, of course.
But educational academies are bastions of the left. Ward Churchill is gone, but it's likely that many other professors will hoist the banner of campus radicalism in his place.

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