Thursday, April 02, 2009

Churchill Wrongfully Fired???

I still can't understand how the US Supreme Court could rule as it did in Kelo, and neither do I understand how a jury could rule that Ward Churchill was wrongfully fired.

A jury ruled Thursday that the University of Colorado wrongly fired the professor who compared some Sept. 11 victims to a Nazi, a verdict that gives the professor $1 and a chance to get his job back...

Churchill said claims including plagiarism were just a cover and that he never would have been fired if it weren't for the essay in which he called World Trade Center victims "little Eichmanns," a reference to Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi leader who helped orchestrate the Holocaust. Jurors agreed.

I'll agree that he might very well have gotten away with his plagiarism if he hadn't made the Nazi comments, but once the plagiarism was brought to the university's attention, was the school supposed to ignore it? Well, according to this jury, perhaps they were.

University spokesman Ken McConnellogue said the university will review its options before deciding whether to appeal.

"(The verdict) doesn't change the fact that more than 20 of his faculty peers found that he engaged in plagiarism and other academic misconduct," McConnellogue said.

Verdicts like this cause me to lose faith not only in our legal system, but in my fellow citizens.

background here


PeggyU said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Darren said...

A good point was made in that last comment, but it contained some language that I just cannot have on this blog! I'd appreciate it if that commenter would post a similar comment, though, as the idea was exceptional.

mazenko said...

As soon as this trial started, I noted to people here in Colorado that CU was going to lose. This is not to say that I support Churchill or his views or his plagiarism or any of his other garbage. However, the public statements from the University and the governor (who was holding the issue of state funding over the Regents heads) was clearly motivated by Churchill's offensive statements, not his academia.

The university was asked to "look into" his record after, and only after, the national press on the essay - an essay that was several years old. At that time a great deal of skeletons came out of the closet which revealed that CU had been asleep at the wheel when he was hired, made department chair, and granted tenure.

That said, once the investigation turned up some sloppy and dubious scholarship there seemed to be justification for some reprimand. A censure - certainly. A loss of stature/schedule/title - absolutely. However, precedence gave no credibility for him to lose his job. Thus, the jury concluded that his "firing" was politically, not scholarly, motivated.

And the jury is right. It was clear why Churchill was investigated and fired. It had to do with the embarrassment the university and state suffered. However, that does not justify any of his garbage. It also didn't justify his firing which is why the jury followed the law and their conscience by awarding him a whopping one dollar in damages.

Darren said...

As I've said here and in other posts, once the plagiarism was made known to the university, the university couldn't ignore it just because of the motivation behind the people who brought it to their attention. Yes, the university screwed up in their hiring and promoting him, but that doesn't mean they couldn't correct themselves when *his* lies were publicly identified.

Fritz J. said...

When it comes to Kelo, read the decision and the applicable laws. Kelo was correctly decided.

Understand that saying I think Kelo was correctly decided does not mean that I agree with the decision by the City of New London to condemn the property, but according to the law they had the power to do so and it is the job of the Supreme Court to determine whether a law is constitutional, not if it is a good law.

As for the Ward Churchill case, his firing was never a First Amendment infringement and it appears that Churchill's lawyers managed to convince the jury that it was. I am very disappointed in that jury. I hope that the university appeals it as far as necessary.

PeggyU said...

I apologize for my choice of words, because I did not mean to offend you. Certainly, it is up to the discretion of the blog administrator to determine the guidelines of his own blog! So, I don't feel bad about your deleting my original comment.

I intended to use something strong, as I was incensed when I heard the interview with the eHarmony representative on the news. "Gay" is sufficiently bland to apply to a large and diverse group of homosexuals, but I meant that comment for the militant and in-your-face extortionists who brought the lawsuit.

It galls me that a special interest group like this can intimidate people the way they do by playing the victim card. "Gay" is too nice a term to attach to them.

What does this really say about the people who brought the suit? They did it because they have an axe to grind, not because they desired a dating service. If a dating service were the real motivator, a person of this persuasion would have sensed a profitable market niche and created a similar business, rather than suggest a side product for eHarmony. eHarmony was targeted for bullying because it is large, visible, and perhaps most importantly, Christian-owned. It represents a victory, both legal and symbolic, for alternative lifestyles proponents - and by extension all radical leftists.

I was asking if this means I can sue the local pizza parlor into selling hamburgers or bring suit against a shoe store because it doesn't carry the brands of shoes I like. What's to stop this sort of frivolous litigation from happening when a precedent like this has been set? Isn't that a (government assisted) assault on capitalism as well? I think this is every bit as significant and disturbing as the government meddling with AIG and GM.

allen (in Michigan) said...

If all the investigation turned up was "sloppy and dubious scholarship" then they weren't trying very hard. Some years back, after reading an article in The National Review about Churchill that quoted from a scholarly article, I tracked down the article's author and we corresponded briefly. Some of the author's findings about Churchill included large-scale fabrication of quotes, large-scale and obvious misrepresentation of primary source material, the absence of crucial information that completely changed the way in which historical events could be interpreted and on and on.

The man isn't just an embarrassment, he's an academic fraud much in the mold of Micheal Bellisile and merited the same sort of treatment. The difference between Bellisile and Churchill is that Bellisile put himself at the center of a national debate, and under a national microscope, whereas Churchill, despite his hateful pronouncements, kept his "scholarship" largely within the academic community.

Churchill's claim to fame is that he's practically the poster boy for the politicization of academe and if he, and by implication his politically-motivated "scholarship", falls then it's liable to put some steel in the backbones of complacent, and compliant, university administrations.

If you're a professor who believes the university should be in the service of your political beliefs, or if you're as much of a fraud as Churchill, then canning Churchill is a pretty scary event.

ChrisA said...


Sad to say, it's quite easy to understand if you live in Boulder.

Anonymous said...

You rule in Ward's favor and then award a $1 because then he can't appeal (you can't appeal a win ... I think).

Unless Ward gets his job back, he lost and can't try again.

If this lets him get his job back, then my theory on why the jury might side with him looks less good.

One other think to keep in mind, though, is that the jury is supposed to decide based *only* on what is presented in court. We don't know what that is (and won't unless we are willing to dig through the court transcripts). Sometime the jury reaches a 'correct' decision even though it is 'wrong' ... in much the same way that taking an even-money bet with the odds in your favor is 'correct' even if it loses.

-Mark Roulo

Ellen K said...

Plagiarism alone should be sufficient grounds to fire any professor. We cannot and should not accept less from the faculty than we do from students. That having been said, he made himself a target by going out of the way to offend people at every turn. In a real job, he could have and would have been fired just for his obnoxious behavior. I hope the school appeals this. Universities should not have to endure reprehensible behavior from employees just because they work in the academic field.