Tautology (and Thoughts on Ward Churchill)

Todd Zywicki notes that Congress "has been on a binge diet of junk social science."  Is there another kind of social science?  Particularly in the media, I really think the main influence of social science has been to substantially lower the bar for scientific inquiry and skepticism thereof.

Update: On a related note, these really low academic standards in the social "sciences" are the reason I think firing Ward Churchill is bogus, as I wrote here.  Academic standards for things like ethnic or gender studies are incredibly low, particularly for the "research" done in these departments.  As I pointed out before, Cal State Long Beach, for example, hired a paranoid schizophrenic who had served prison time for beating and torturing two women as the head of their Black Studies department.  It is almost impossible to imagine Ward Churchill fired for violating the academic standards of his discipline because his discipline tends to have none, and everyone knows it.  The University of Colorado fully knew what it was getting with Ward Churchill, but they hired him to check a politically correct racial/gender/ethnic box.  Everything UC supposedly fired him for were known to them or should have been known to them with the most minimal of due diligence when they tenured the guy.  Nothing has changed, except that he is no longer a PR asset for the university.  As I wrote previously:

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

Even More:  Background from KC Johnson:

Churchill was hired through a "special opportunity" position, designed
by the university to help "recruit and hire a more diverse faculty." He
had an M.A. from little-known Sangamon State University and no Ph.D at
all. As documents from the time noted, his qualifications included only two items: strong lobbying from Evelyn Hu-DeHart,
the chair of the Ethnic Studies program, and the now-disputed fact that
"Ward is a Native American," meaning his hire would contribute "to
increasing the cultural diversity on campus."...

How, then, could his fellow academics have originally found Churchill's
scholarship acceptable? The outcome, alas, suggests that in politicized
fields such as African-American Studies, Women's Studies, and Ethnic
Studies, the message too often trumps quality. In this case, it appears
that Churchill's extremist arguments that the U.S. government engaged
in genocide against Native Americans blinded his academic reviewers to
the poor quality of his scholarship. Indeed, some Churchill
sympathizers, led by Cornell professor Eric Cheyfitz,
have continued to maintain that the former professor's writings
constitute appropriate scholarship for the field of Ethnic Studies.

I contend that Churchill was and is still exactly what UC thought he was, and his scholarship was and still does exactly conform to the (miserably low) standards of his discipline.


  1. Bruce Hayden:

    Interesting theory. However, the old adage that "he who lives by the sword", etc. applies here.

    I think it obvious that Churchill was hired by CU because of his claim to be native American. And ditto for tenure, etc. But they couldn't fire him for apparently lying about that. In other words, tenure is such at major research universities like CU that you can cheat to get it, but can't be fired when you are caught cheating to get it in the first place.

    Nevertheless, CU had no choice here. He had become the poster boy for all that was wrong with tenure in general, and in particular, tenure at CU, esp. the campus in the People's Republic of Boulder. You had departments where the average teaching load for full professors was one and a half classes a year.

    So, CU was faced with firing Churchill and having a half-assed review of the tenure process, or keeping him, and having to go through a full blown one likely to result in major changes. Also, the last Legislature was sniffing around thinking to get involved. Not something that CU could afford, and still expect to keep so many faculty working so little for so much security.

    I should also note that the cost has gone out of sight at the school. I was talking to friends yesterday, and they had friends whose daughter was out visiting colleges the week before. She had looked at CU (Boulder), Colorado State University, Colorado College, and the University of Denver. The later two, being private were the most expensive. But CC (my undergraduate alma mater) was apparently only about $3k higher than CU Boulder for out of state students. The difference is that at CC, you get PhDs teaching much smaller classes, easy access to them, small classes, and no TAs. At CC, you are very likely to get a good education. At CU Boulder, for almost as much money, you might get a good one if you work very hard to get such - if you are in the top 10% and work hard. But it is a party school, and most don't. Also, it varies a lot by department - engineering students are more likely to work hard and get a good education than liberal arts students are, and of course, ethnic, etc. studies students are likely to get pure indoctrination (but still, I took engineering classes at CU Denver where the prof was teaching at both campuses, and they had to curve the classes separately, or we would have gotten all the A's and most of the B's - showing the difference between a party school and a commuting school).

  2. dearieme:

    Good riddance! But what is extremist about "arguments that the U.S. government engaged in genocide against Native Americans"?

  3. JoshK:

    I agree that he was fired b/c he offended people, and not because he failed to live up to the high standards of a multi-cultural studies dept.

    But, shouldn't the employer be allowed to fire employees for whatever reason? Especially if supported by the majority of the shareholders (taxpayers)?

  4. tsiroth:

    Josh: Generally speaking, yes. However, public universities, being government operated, can run afoul of the First Amendment if they punish students or faculty for the content of their speech. (Although, as a practical matter, even private businesses have to tread carefully in their firing decisions.)

  5. tsiroth:

    Josh: Generally speaking, yes. However, public universities, being government operated, can run afoul of the First Amendment if they punish students or faculty for the content of their speech. (Although, as a practical matter, even private businesses have to tread carefully in their firing decisions.)

  6. tsiroth:

    *sigh* Darn server squirrels.