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The Punishment in the Ward Churchill Case:

Though only one member of the Churchill investigative committee recommended that Churchill be fired -- two others recommended a five-year unpaid suspension, and two more recommended a two-year unpaid suspension -- it seems to me that this one member was right.

As best I can tell, from what press accounts I've read and from the Report itself, Churchill hasn't shown any contrition. His falsification, fabrication, and plagiarism (in the Committee's words), which the Committee quite plausibly found to be deliberate, are substantial.

And these are falsehoods in his published work, which can readily be checked. How can his future students be confident that things he says in class are accurate? (Yes, we try to instill skepticism in our students, but they still rightly expect that they can count on our factual assertions, rather than double-checking every word.) How can his colleagues, and Colorado taxpayers, be confident that his students are learning things accurately? His work has been cited by over 100 times in law reviews alone, and law isn't even his main field; I assume that quite a few scholars are now wondering whether their reliance on his work led their own work to be in error. How can other scholars, and his other readers, ever rely on anything he says?

It seems to me that keeping him on the faculty would be a substantial disservice to Colorado students, Colorado taxpayers, and the academic fields in which he works. I hope that in its sympathy for a colleague, and its desire to avoid hassle or even litigation, the University doesn't lose sight of that.

uh_clem (mail):
At the risk of making a broad generalization, faculty hate being told what to do by those outside their circle. That's the only reason I can see for not simply firing the guy.
5.17.2006 12:30am
Lev:
At the risk of another broad, and cynical, generalization, maybe the faculty know how much of their "scholarship" they made up and don't want to set a precedent for being fired because of it.
5.17.2006 1:24am
Patrick McKenzie (mail):
I cited Churchill frequently in (major geekery incoming) a year of evidence-based debate centering around Indian topics. In that particular situation, its not necessarily important that he is saying something which is actually true (note that in academic debate you'll routinely be saying contradictory things because you have to argue both sides of the issue in different rounds: we're sort of socialized to accept this, whereas the rest of the academy probably is not). Its that someone with X level of credentials is saying something that you need to be said for your argument to work. I'm probably overly cynical about academia, but it seems to me that you're not citing Churchill for his factual veracity, you're citing Churchill for getting rhetorically powerful "white man screws Indian, film at 11" quotes. "The larger narrative is true, and if the details are a little fuzzy well, you surely aren't arguing that we've been peachy to Indians, are you?" is the way I see that playing out. Again, I'm probably a little cynical.

But really, even if you believed at face-value everything Churchill has ever said, he's never had "strong scholarship" going for him. Reading his scholarship it isn't exactly overflowing with citations or original research -- its mostly polemics (many of which are eminently quotable, which is why you'll find him in Law Review articles which need a quotable quote regarding Indians, race, or government screwage of minorities). I don't know that his polemics become any less effective even if the unquoted supporting evidence for them is false -- although I suppose people could, theoretically, quote him less because they fear it would reflect poorly on them to quote him (conversely, they could quote him more because "controversial Indian activist Ward Churchill, who has weathered several campaigns by his opponents to get him fired, has noted that ..." is a great way to establish credibility with some audiences).
5.17.2006 1:37am
EricK:
The one question you really need to ask yourself would you or one of your children want to take classes taught by him? I would not want too, more so the case at current per credit prices.
5.17.2006 1:38am
Brian Macker (mail) (www):
"In that particular situation, its not necessarily important that he is saying something which is actually true"

I get your point but what percentage of you supporting bullshit has to be false before it matters. I assume if 100% is false then it should be "necessarily important". Where is the threshold draw? One would think that lies about purposely spreading smallpox would tend to throw doubt on the veracity of other stories of wrong doing, not vice versa.
5.17.2006 1:59am
Kazinski:
One way or another Ward Churchill will land on his feet. He'll bloviate from one campus to another speaking lies to power. He'll still be living on the public dime in the form of mandatory student activity fees. But it is worthwhile to have on the public record a catalog of his mendacity compiled by sympathetic collegues.
5.17.2006 2:08am
DelVerSiSogna (mail):
Lev writes: [M]aybe the faculty know how much of their "scholarship" they made up and don't want to set a precedent for being fired because of it.

Thanks for that brief jaunt into absurd speculation. Back in Reality Land, however, what happened is that the five committee members spent large amounts of their time, over nearly a year, scrutinizing Churchill's work, hearing testimony from witnesses, and writing a report (pdf) that (1) describes Churchill's falsification, plagiarism, and so on in lengthy detail and unanimously, unambiguously, and harshly condemns that misconduct. And this, despite the committee's obvious discomfort with the timing and motivation of the charges. So it's really a bit much to suggest that they were really just trying to set a self-serving precedent protecting academics who make up academic research.
5.17.2006 2:15am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
What about a genetic test to see if WC is a Victim of Color or a White Oppressor? They can do wonderful things with technology these days.
5.17.2006 8:04am
Federal Dog:
The problems with Churchill, including serial fabrication and plagiarism, have been well-known since at least 1996. Anyone who has cited him in any law review article is not a competent scholar.
5.17.2006 8:38am
PersonFromPorlock:
So it's really a bit much to suggest that they were really just trying to set a self-serving precedent protecting academics who make up academic research.

Au contraire, if after finding so much sin they can show so much mercy, it's about as much protection of bad work as can be imagined.
5.17.2006 9:15am
The Drill SGT (mail):
I think one of the key disqualifying criteria for any profession ought to be "dishonesty in the execution of his profession".

Yes I know that lawyers and accountants for example operate in an advocacy system. But as an Officer of the Court, lawyers are expected to be truthful in their representations to Judges, the Court and to a lesser extent the opposing side. Same for Accountants.

In my profession of arms (Army Officer) the catch phrases was and is, "An Officer's word is his bond". I know one can find evidence of self serving behavior, lying, stealing and cheating among my profession, but those are exceptions to the code.

So the charge of "falsification, fabrication, and plagiarism" seems to me to be grounds for a summary judgment of "Conduct unbecoming a member of the Academy". They should take him outside the gates to CU, and rip the buttons off his tweed jacket, break his pipe, and bend the barrel of his AK-47.
5.17.2006 9:31am
Whatever:

The one question you really need to ask yourself would you or one of your children want to take classes taught by him? I would not want too, more so the case at current per credit prices.

Hell yeah... I saw Churchill speak a long time ago, before the current scandal, and was impressed, even if I did think he was cookoo. He was long on interpretation and short on substance, but a charismatic speaker and an obviously intellegent character. The QandA period was pretty good, a lot of folks had turned up prepared to debate, and so had Mr. Churchill. It was not so much informative of the material as it was informative of the nature and level of the debate and the state of the scholarship.

When my daughter gets to college, I very much want her taking courses full of impassioned debate and high polemics. I'm gonna be a way dissapointed father (though I will hide it) if she wastes her time in college listening to TA's present info that she could have gotten from a textbook. If there's a scandalous professor presenting material that inspires newspaper editorials, denounciations on the floor of congress, and missives on the VC, I want her there learning from it. She can learn the rest at the library.

That said, I agree with EV that he probably ought to be fired. The report makes it pretty clear that he fabricated information in published work. Any student would probably be expelled for the same. But while he and his ilk are around, I'm all for folks taking their classes and attending their lectures. This is what makes academics interesting.
5.17.2006 9:41am
Paul Gowder (mail):
Does anyone know the skinny on how he got hired in the first place? The beginning of the report notes that his only graduate education is an M.A. in communications, and he got hired with tenure. That strikes me as unbelievably weird, even for someone with a high public profile. Am I missing something here?
5.17.2006 10:29am
Moonage Webdream (mail) (www):
I'm just curious. If a student is found guilty of plagiarism, what happens to the student?

Is there any reason a teacher should be held to lesser expectations and standards?
5.17.2006 10:32am
Bill_C (mail):

Though only one member of the Churchill investigative committee recommended that Churchill be fired -- two others recommended a five-year unpaid suspension, and two more recommended a two-year unpaid suspension -- it seems to me that this one member was right.

The time periods of those suspensions w/o pay ARE votes to fire him or telling him to resign his post in disgrace. He's off the CU-B field for an entire masters student's (2 years) or an entire undergraduate's (4-5 years) academic career. The campus game board and environment can be completely rewritten in that period. He would have to reintegrate himself into the mix, including a new and fresh pecking order created by his absence. He's also caused his department and college great embarrassment, he would be welcome by people who he didn't directly damage or embarrass but his overall clout at CU-B is gone. It would be easier for him to use his celebrity status to get a job elsewhere at a school or body where politics matter more than scholarship and professionalism.
5.17.2006 10:39am
Shangui (mail):
I'm just curious. If a student is found guilty of plagiarism, what happens to the student?

There's actually a huge range depending upon the school and the professor. In my experience, at most public universities (like CU, for example), the student would only get a warning from the university the first time they were caught and possibly a brief (semester) suspension the second time. The individual prof. might give the assignment itself a failing grade or give a failing grade for the whole class. Other places (like Harvard, for example) would typically suspend the student for a year for the first offense provided it was sufficiently extreme (e.g. not a few lines, but most of a paper, problem set, etc.). In some places I have seen the university administration do nothing and even decline to defend a prof. when parents threatened to sue. The latter is a not infrequent problem when students get caught. Even when confronted with clear evidence, parents will refuse to believe junior could have done such a thing (or, alternatively, that they are paying a lot for his/her education and he can cheat if he wants to).
5.17.2006 10:44am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I think part of the problem that CU finds itself in, is that all of the above may be true, but they are also trying to portray themselves as a major research university. If they accept that Churchill is not really a scholar, but rather an charasmatic polemic, but keep him on the faculty anyway, what does that say about the rest of their faculty?

Not all schools are research institutions. I was very happy that I attended a small liberal arts school for my undergraduate education. Since there was little research going on there, and teachers were rewarded for teaching, you msot often got PhDs teaching fairly small classes (though one of my best profs hadn't received his yet). No TAs whatsover.

He would do just fine at these smaller, non-research, schools, and some of them have as much prestige as CU does (in my view, more), to give him a platform.
5.17.2006 10:44am
Whatever:

There's actually a huge range depending upon the school and the professor. In my experience, at most public universities (like CU, for example), the student would only get a warning from the university the first time they were caught and possibly a brief (semester) suspension the second time.


Wow... At every school I've attended or taught at (just as an adjunct), punishment has been far more severe. If a student could claim ignorance/incompetance of thier offense they might get away with a suspension or even just an F, but for significant and willful plagerism, students always seemed to get expelled (though in some cases they were allowed to reapply after some time). I should note that my knowledge of these cases is through the academic rumor mill as they are all confidential and I never sat on the diciplinary committees, but just the same, I've seen quite a few kids expelled for first offenses of the academic honor code.
5.17.2006 11:13am
Shangui (mail):
If a student could claim ignorance/incompetance of thier offense they might get away with a suspension or even just an F, but for significant and willful plagerism, students always seemed to get expelled (though in some cases they were allowed to reapply after some time).

I certainly agree that it should be thus. I've been privy to a number of such cases over the years and in my experience the students almost NEVER admit that they just plain cheated. The strings of mitigating factors they claim are impressively long. My impression (based on specific cases) is that plagiarizing from the internet is presently so wide-spread at second tier schools especially, that actually expelling students for a first time offense would be a serious issue for the school. Also, many of these students have plagiarized their ways through high school and sometimes legitimately don't know what they are doing is wrong based on they way it was dealt with in high schools. A friend of mine at a state university just caught a student with a whole paragraph from a Wikipedia entry. The student very straight-forwardly said, "I just cut and pasted it in from the web page so I wouldn't have to be constantly going back and forth looking at my paper and then the website." They didn't seem to realize this was a problem.

Personally I've never seen a student expelled for a first offense of the academic honor code, but the fact that you have gives me some hope.
5.17.2006 11:37am
MDJD2B (mail):
Not all schools are research institutions. I was very happy that I attended a small liberal arts school for my undergraduate education. Since there was little research going on there, and teachers were rewarded for teaching...

Most highly regarded small colleges require research on the part of their faculty. Publication suggests that the faculty are up to date with how people approach their field. It also suggests that the faculty are still interacting intellectually with their subject, instead of just reading 30 year old notes. My kids attended Pomona and Kenyon. Websites and publlicity publications of these and other colleges of this caliber document the scholarly activity of faculty members.
5.17.2006 11:52am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

At the risk of another broad, and cynical, generalization, maybe the faculty know how much of their "scholarship" they made up and don't want to set a precedent for being fired because of it.
If by "their" you are referring to members of the committee, I think that is too broad and cynical of a generalization (unless there's something you know about the members that I don't). If you mean that Ward Churchill's crimes are widespread in the academy, and everyone knows it, you are certainly correct. The fact is that a lot of "history" gets published that is, at best, highly polemical, and outrageously and obviously false history gets not just published, but receives awards for excellence--and the academy covers up the frauds as long as they can.
5.17.2006 12:29pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):

Most highly regarded small colleges require research on the part of their faculty. Publication suggests that the faculty are up to date with how people approach their field. It also suggests that the faculty are still interacting intellectually with their subject, instead of just reading 30 year old notes.
One of my history professors explained to me that in the California State University system, the primary emphasis is teaching, not research. If a professor wants to do research as well, that's really a nice bonus, but it wasn't required or expected. At least in my major, this showed--professors were often highly effective at teaching. (I had one that had retired on the job, unfortunately.) On the other hand, I had a professor or two who was teaching from notes written on yellow legal pads that appeared to have been, indeed, 30 years old!
5.17.2006 1:19pm
uh clem (mail):
If you mean that Ward Churchill's crimes are widespread in the academy, and everyone knows it, you are certainly correct. The fact is that a lot of "history" gets published that is, at best, highly polemical, and outrageously and obviously false history gets not just published, but receives awards for excellence--and the academy covers up the frauds as long as they can.
No, Ward Churchill is an simply aberation who self-imploded.

Attempts to use him as an example to smear ___GROUP_X___ is simply a strawman argument. This is true whether __GROUP_X__ is academics, liberals, people who oppose the war, minorities, social scientists, artists, native americans, etc. Fill in the variable however you like.

Oh, by the way, he's being punished for plagerism not for being highly polemical.
5.17.2006 1:20pm
Federal Dog:
"No, Ward Churchill is an simply aberation who self-imploded."


I would be more persuaded of this were it not for people such as Ellis, Goodwin, Belleisles, and Gilligan (to name obvious and well-known examples of academic fraud just off the top of my head). It is irresponsible and self-serving to dismiss all these figures as "simply aberrations who self-imploded." They were all hired and tenured by a hermetically-sealed system that regularly rewards politically correct thinking over factual and logical scholarship. Churchill's success in such a system is no mistake, and he is in no way an "aberration."
5.17.2006 2:00pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Does anyone know the skinny on how he got hired in the first place? The beginning of the report notes that his only graduate education is an M.A. in communications, and he got hired with tenure. That strikes me as unbelievably weird, even for someone with a high public profile. Am I missing something here?
Yes. It's ethnic studies. He's ethnic. (Or he claims to be, anyway; as I understand it, that appears to be yet another fabrication of his.) When all that matters is race preferences, you take what you can get.
5.17.2006 2:01pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
uh clem writes:


Oh, by the way, he's being punished for plagerism not for being highly polemical.
Uh, no. He's being punished for fraud and plagiarism. (At least if you plagiarize competent work, you might get the facts right.) Indeed, his polemicism isn't the reason he is being punished--but his polemics are part of why he was safe from punishment. If you rant and rave in a manner that makes the left happy, you can lie all you want, and they won't care.

And concerning how he got hired: if you are the right minority (or lie about it, as Churchill did), you don't need conventional qualifications. One of my friends who attended Sonoma State University took a class that met the ethnic studies polemic that was taught by a guy without a degree. His qualification for the job was that he had been Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, long, long ago. (Remember that the Black Panthers fancied themselves a legitimate government, so everyone had titles like "Minister of Defense" and "Minister of Culture.")

I'm not a big fan of credentialism. If someone teaches effectively, and they know their subject, that should be the most important issue. But Mr. Minister of Culture didn't even show up for class regularly, and eventually, the university fired him--and then he filed suit against them for discrimination.

I don't see that it matters that Churchill only has an MA. What does matter is that universities demand a PhD--unless you are black, or claim to be Indian, or whatever the chic group of the moment is. If the PhD is really important--then it shouldn't matter that the person you are hiring is an Indian. And if the PhD really isn't essential, then they shouldn't be requiring it for whites.
5.17.2006 2:16pm
bud (mail):
Re: The "punishment".

It's just academia circling the wagons.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.
5.17.2006 3:13pm
alice:
There isn't any rule that a professor has to have a PhD. Some people are hired who hold a PhD, some people are hired who are ABD, and some people don't have one at all. It depends on the department, the job, the University...

Just because CU is a Research I University doesn't mean that the standards are the same across all Departments for the faculty in terms of teaching load, research hours, numbers of undergrad and/or graduate students supervised, committees served on, and community outreach hours.

I am heartened to see that at least one of you ("Whatever") understands what University level education is all about.
5.17.2006 4:06pm
Knox Harrington (mail):
Let's be clear. If this were some Holocaust revisionsist he would be run out of the University on a rail. The fact that he lies to the benefit of the Left gives him legitimacy. Churchill is not a scholar. He is a fraud and a liar - the people of Colorado should start asking questions about the Regents and the state government responsibility in making a forum available for non-scholar bomb throwers at taxpayer expense. Ask yourself, would you want David Duke "teaching" at a public university? The two are no different - they both lie on behalf of their political agendas. The only difference is the impramatur placed on Churchill because he is a radical leftist.
5.17.2006 4:42pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
alice writes:


There isn't any rule that a professor has to have a PhD. Some people are hired who hold a PhD, some people are hired who are ABD, and some people don't have one at all. It depends on the department, the job, the University...
Yeah, there are some situations where someone white with an MA gets hired, but that's pretty exceptional in a research university like Colorado. Even at third and fourth tier schools like Sonoma State and Boise State, departments aren't hiring professors without PhDs. (One surprising exception: the Air Force Academy History Department has advertised in the last couple of years for a full-time position only requiring an MA.) There are adjuncts with an MA, but adjuncts are just slightly above janitors in university scheme of things.
5.17.2006 4:42pm
alice:
Doesn't the exception prove the rule?

Silly little smiley face here to indicate I'm not being rude.

But I don't understand what white has to do with it. And in case you hadn't figured it out, I'm at a Research I University and understand your jibe is anti-affirmative action.
5.17.2006 4:48pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Alice writes:


But I don't understand what white has to do with it. And in case you hadn't figured it out, I'm at a Research I University and understand your jibe is anti-affirmative action.
Yes, because I am one of those weird people that thinks that if a position truly requires qualification X, then you shouldn't hire position who lack that qualification. Does being black make up for a lack of a PhD? If the PhD really isn't necessary to do the job (and clearly, many universities drop the qualification to get the right race), then why require it from others?
5.17.2006 5:11pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Alice writes:


But I don't understand what white has to do with it. And in case you hadn't figured it out, I'm at a Research I University and understand your jibe is anti-affirmative action.
Yes, because I am one of those weird people that thinks that if a position truly requires qualification X, then you shouldn't hire people who lack that qualification. Does being black make up for a lack of a PhD? If the PhD really isn't necessary to do the job (and clearly, many universities drop the qualification to get the right race), then why require it from others?
5.17.2006 5:11pm
alice:
I've been involved in Universities across the US my entire life (my dad was a prof, too) and I have never seen a University "drop" a qual to hire someone. Furthermore, I have seen Universities refuse to tenure people who did not achieve the expected standard, regardless of race, color, or creed.

Look at the statistics to see how underrepresented minorities STILL are in higher education, and then tell me how I should feel sorry for you.
5.17.2006 5:26pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
Alice wins the argument (is that really a surprise with Clayton as her opponent?). At least one university had not just a professor, but its president hold nothing more than MA in history. Of course, it helps that the aforementioned president was a sycophant of his predecessor, but that has little to do with the his employment.

The PhD standard is particularly loose when it comes to faculty in art, music and literature. As these fields traditionally did not require a degree to signify competence in the profession, it is hard to argue that to teach art one need not hold a PhD.
5.17.2006 5:41pm
A Law Unto Himself:
But an MA in COMMUNICATIONS? With NO postgraduate work in his field? A full professorship?

Nothing to see here, folks. Move along....
5.17.2006 6:07pm
Paul Gowder (mail):
Buck: but in art and music, the MFA. is considered a terminal degree. (As for "literature," I assume you mean "writing?" I don't think the army of unemployed english/lit PhDs will appreciate the notion that this academic field doesn't require the same qualifications as others.) There's no claim that an MA in communications is a terminal degree. I'm in favor of affirmative action generally, and I don't think this decision can be explained by race (find me a meaningful number of other minorities who have been hired and given tenure without the normal educational qualifications), but by something more troubling. What that is, I'm not sure. Cronyism of some kind? I was hoping someone had an idea.
5.17.2006 6:38pm
Glenn W Bowen (mail):
Churchill was hired and promoted without the credentials required of others because he's an Indian, except he's not.

Beyond that, he's a proven plagiarist and thief.

He should be fired; so should a number of academic jackasses, probably. Thereby the recommended suspensions rather than termination- who's next?
5.17.2006 7:57pm
Whatever:
I was hired as an adjunct with only a BA and some masters work. This was immediatly after 9/11 when colleges and universities were willing to hire ANYONE who had any experience with middle eastern/islamic studies. This was a pretty unique time though... Anyone who could explain the difference between Sunnis and Shiites could have gotten an adjunct job for Spring 02 and Fall 03...

Oh, and since it seems to matter, I'm lilly white... Almost morbidly pale... And I speak with the classic northwoods Maine/New Hampshire/Vermont accent... I think I can safely say that I was not hired due to my race...
5.18.2006 2:25pm
Hoosier:
Churchill ought to have been fired for these violations, which are severe. But if one does not agree with this, then what about his claim that he will RE-PUBLISH some of these pieces without any significant revisions? He has told the committee that he *will do it again*. A university cannot function if it allows this from its faculty.

As for Alice's claims: I could not care less whether she--or anyone else--feels sorry for me. Why is that your standard?

In addition, I can't say that I have the same experience. At the (Carnegie II--we don't have a med school) university at which I teach, I have seen qualifications dropped in order to "hire" minorities. It happened from time-to-time at the three universities with which I've been associated during my career. Most frequently, departments "bend" on the question of whether they will hire an ABD. The answer, in the case of my department--and college, more broadly-- is "no." UNLESS this helps us hire a minority. In which case the answer is "yes."

I think the solid case should be made on tenure and promotion, not hiring, which is more, umm, "flexible." No one is going to get tenured here without producing. In the case of a minority candidate, perhaps the scholar would be given the benefit of the doubt in a close case, whereas I would not. But scholalry productivity will be a necessary--though not sufficient--condition for tenure.

Promotion to Full is largely in the hands of a committee of established peers from other universities. So this, too, will happen only if the cadidate is legitimately deserving.

Re: The PhD--It is almost impossible to land a t and r job at any type of four-year college or university without a PhD, or at least ABD. My alma mater, Notre Dame, has Alasdair McIntyre on faculty. But he is Aristotle, and thus a remarkable exeption. Otherwise, we all know the rules. I don't like the credential-obsession very much. But since I knew how things worked when I entered this profession, I haven't much right to complain. So I wrote my diss, and got my degree with a "D" in it. Big deal.
5.18.2006 6:04pm