A Thought on Ward Churchill

I suppose this is going to be one of those nutty libertarian rants that help explain why libertarians do so poorly at the polls, but I am not really very comfortable with Ward Churchill's potential firing from University of Colorado.  I can't think of very many things Mr. Churchill has said that I agree with, but I still have this crazy idea about defending speech regardless of the content of the speech.

And it is hard for me to escape the sense that Mr. Churchill may lose his tenured position at a state-run institution over the content of his speech.  Yeah, I know, its nominally about his academic credentials.  But don't you think everyone is winking at each other about this?  Yes, Mr. Churchill is an academic fraud, but he was a fraud when UC hired him and tenured him as well, and they should have known it.

Over a couple of decades, every major university in the country rushed to build, practically from scratch, racial and ethnic and gender studies programs and departments.  Had every university raced at the same time to build any discipline, talent would run short and in the hiring race, some under-qualified people would be hired.  Let's suppose that every university decided at the same time they needed a climate department, there just would not be enough qualified climate scientists to fill out every position.  The rush to build ethnic studies programs was similar but in fact a bit worse.  Because while some people actually do have climate-related degrees, no one until recently had an ethnic studies degree.  What professional qualifications should a school look for?  And, in fact, in the rush to build ethnic studies programs, a lot of people of very dubious qualifications were given tenure, often based more on ethnic credibility and political activism than any academic qualifications.  Hell, Cal State Long Beach hired a paranoid schizophrenic who had served prison time for beating and torturing two women as the head of their Black Studies department.  And universities like UC patted themselves on their politically correct backs for these hirings.

I could go out tomorrow and find twenty tenured professors of ethnic/racial/gender studies in state universities whose academic credentials are at least as bad as Churchill's and whom no one would dare fire.  This has nothing to do with Churchill's academic work or its quality.  UC is getting exactly what it expected when it tenured him.  This is about an attempt to fire a tenured professor for the content of his speech, speech that has embarrassed and put pressure on the university, and I can't support that.


  1. ArtD0dger:

    Perhaps. But as a tuition-paying CU student, my money actually helps pay for this creep's soap box.

    Churchill violated rule #1 for cockroaches: Never, ever shine the light on yourself.

  2. dearieme:

    It might be useful to distinguish the motives for examining his work - embarrassment at his pronouncements - and the facts discovered as a consequence. If the guy lies about his research it is their duty to fire him. If they don't they should be fired themselves. Else, every crooked researcher can protect his position by espousing unpopular political causes.

  3. Roy Lofquist:

    Dear Sir,

    Academic freedom and all that is very important, agreed. However, this university is funded by the taxpayers of the state. They certainly have primacy over the wishes of their employeees in matters of public discourse. They are, in general, extremely tolerant of the free flow of ideas in their educational institutions. However. He should maybe go and teach at Harvard.


  4. Rick C:

    As I recall, Churchill has been found guilty of plagiarism. That is not a wink and a nod, but rather academic death. He deserves to have tenure revoked for that reason alone.


  5. Technomad:

    I've seen paintings by this Churchill person that looked exactly like paintings in a book called _The Mystic Warriors of the Plains._ It so happens that the book's in my local hometown library, so I was easily able to compare-and-contrast.

    If I'd pulled a stunt like that, my reputation would be in the gutter, and I'd have no chance of any job related to whatever I'd swiped.

  6. John F. Opie:

    Hi -

    Umm, actually he's going to be fired for gross academic misconduct that has absolutely nothing to do with any sort of free speech concerns.

    Turns out that not only did he plagariaze - a fancy word for theft - but also ghost-wrote articles that he then turned around and quoted as supporting his works.

    Add to that the apparent fact that he isn't even of adequate native American descent, and you can get the picture that the reason he is being fired - and right should be - is that he is a complete and total fake, has abused his position, and that he has conducted himself in a manner that is severely detrimental to the University, without even getting into any sort of free-speech issues whatsoever.

    What is equally bizarre, though, is that the folks who hired him aren't being equally dismissed as well. They deserve it too for lack of due diligence!

  7. Craig:

    These ethnic studies programs seem to promote, and lead to, de facto segregation. If you give each minority its own such program, don't you eliminate the classroom interaction between people from different backgrounds that is the supposed benefit of diversity on campus?

  8. Kelly Moffitt:

    The right to free speech does not guarantee that such speech is without consequences, particularly when the speaker is representing his employer. Churchill embarrassed his employer by speaking foolishly. He reaps what he sows...

  9. James R Ament:

    In general, if universities wish to offer tenure as an enticement to secure top professors who want security, it is a free market, and no different than General Electric offering a prized executive, who wants potential income, attractive stock options. Sometimes, it is clear, both industry and universities make very poor personnel choices affecting the value of their institutions. Hopefully, they learn from their mistakes.

    Bottom line: Fire the creep, pay the bills for doing so (from lawsuits), and don't do it again.

  10. Sylvester Newell:

    I Got Your University; Right Here:

    In Colorado, Ward Churchill had a friend, Ruben G. Mendoza, a teaching assistant at the University of Colorado, Denver. Ruben’s department Chair Dr. Moore, for abusing students, booted him from the university, against which Mendoza promptly filed suit. Ruben, an ersatz Chicano, resurfaced as an activist, and got fast-tracked to tenure through one Steven F. Arvizu, at CSU Monterey Bay.

    Mendoza became the nosebleed of the fledgling university. Churchill was invited to CSUMB by Ruben to speak at a weeklong gathering of the clan. Mendoza also engages in academic misconduct, so far without consequence. The Duke lacrosse team fiasco shows that liberals have created a phony cultural paradigm that distorts reality. And, no one exploits phony paradigms, obfuscates truth, or games the system like the Clintons. Point being, miscreants like Churchill and Mendoza have powerful political backers: the fish rots from the head.

    No Getting Out
    The Taliban might as well as run the university. -David Horowitz

    Set the Wayback Machine for 23 August 1995: a hot day in the nation’s capitol. But 3000 miles due west on California’s Central Coast, a constellation of events was unfolding that would have a profound effect on Western civilization; plunge it into decades of war. Yet, this cataclysmic upheaval was only part of the plan. Bill Clinton picked up the telephone. It was his Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, calling from a payphone in Monterey. Bill held the receiver at arms length and gazed at the tasteful floral arrangement that adorned the Oval Office. Leon’s disembodied voice filled the room. What now, asked Hillary. It’s that damn college, mouthed Bill. There was, no getting out. Hillary nodded, just tell Leon he’ll get whatever he needs: http://theseedsof9-11.com