Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ward Churchill: The Truth About the Case Against him, heard on WBAI's Friday Edition of Wake Up Call

As you've probably heard by now, last Thursday, a jury in Denver ruled that the high-profile termination of Native American scholar and activist, professor Ward Churchill by the University of Colorado several years ago had been wrongful, this despite the fact that a committee of his so-called faculty peers had found him guilty of a number of academic "wrong-doings."

The jury agreed to all the main points of the prosecution: first, that University of Colorado officials used Churchill's political opinions and "inflammatory" words to fire him from his tenured position at the University; that the termination actually harmed Professor Churchill, and that had it not been for the controversial essay he had written in the wake of September 11, 2001 that described the event as "the chickens coming home to roost," that Churchill would still be teaching at the University of Colorado. In other words, it had nothing to do with the spurious allegations of his own academic misconduct, tucked away within his over dozen self-authored books, countless journal articles and edited collections.

Indeed, the Committee that was set up to investigate and evaluate Churchill's academic track record has been discredited on many different levels, and the jury who heard arguments in the case heard from a broad range of experts upholding the rigor and validity of his writings and research. This open acknowledgment of the inherent bias, mis-representations and lies of the peer review committee at the University of Colorado is found nowhere in the coverage of the case, leaving it open for the public to accept the charges that Churchill is a plagiarist, a shoddy researcher who has twisted historical facts. The New York Times published an article in today's edition that describes the "split feelings" on campus about Churchill's possible return to the University. Nowhere in the piece does it point out that the Peer Committee itself was guilty of faulty research and mis-representations guided by politics, not by a fair review of the record. So while Ward Churchill may be cleared in the eyes of the court, he is forced to justify himself consistently in the court of public opinion.

Nevertheless, this ruling is a clear victory for academic freedom, and should send a signal to the Sean Hannity's and Bill O'Reilly's of the world that political witch hunts have no room in our public institutions of higher learning. Political pressures applied on university administrators do trickle down the totem pole of the academy, directly impacting the lives and the work of people like Ward Churchill, and many anonymous others who perhaps do NOT have the national and international recognition of a person like him, but are left dangling alone like political footballs as they go through the tenure and the promotion process in their respective institutions.

On Friday, April 10th, I was joined by Ward Churchill on the program Wake Up Call over WBAI Radio (99.5FM in NY; online at

On the program, we spoke about the nature of the case that was directed at him, and the many contradictions and lies that were put forward by University Officials and the committee supposedly set up to investigate his academic record. We also discussed the impact this entire episode has had on his personal and professional life, and some of the difficulties he still faces in returning to the University of Colorado. If you want to listen to the entire interview, go to the WBAI Radio Archive . This link will take you to the entire final hour of the show, so in order to hear Ward Chruchill, you need to push ahead on the timeline to about a qauter way through (roughly 8:15am).

Meanwhile, check out the links below for more detailed analysis of the Ward Churchill case:

Open Anthropology blog had a wonderful assessment of the Ward Churchill verdict of last Thursday.

Stanley Fish, the Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor and a professor of law at Florida International University, in Miami, and dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, had a very good analysis about the case in the NY Times, pointing out that this is a circus that "should have never come to town."

For a solid review of the media coverage of the Ward Churchill case, check out Colorado Indy Media, where they posted a strong tracking of the stories that followed last week's verdict.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It was a very good interview, very much appreciated listening to it. Your interviews covered a lot of critically important ground with Ward Churchill, and it was the first time I got to hear him at some length since last week's verdict. Thanks also for the link.