Another Dispute Between Ward Churchill and the Daily Camera
A More Messages blog from January 30 includes an e-mail Q&A with Ward Churchill, who responded to a query about the dropping of charges against one of his supporters over an episode involving Boulder Daily Camera reporter Heath Urie. However, the final section of the communique was temporarily omitted because it made a separate accusation against the Camera that required a response from the paper. With apologies to Paul Harvey, here’s the rest of the story, which deals with the 2005-2006 period when the question of whether or not Churchill should be allowed to continue in his role as University of Colorado Boulder professor ate up huge chunks of newsprint at publications across the Front Range.
The concluding section of Churchill’s e-mail found him responding to an assertion that editors at the Camera couldn’t squeeze in letters or op-ed pieces from some of his most prominent defenders, including the University of Hawaii's David Stannard – yet somehow space for attacks against him was always available. According to him, this claim is accurate. He wrote that the Camera "simply declined to run [Stannard's] or any of a number of other pieces favorable to me submitted from scholars around the country, meanwhile finding room to run hostile material on a regular basis."
"The Camera wasn't alone on this score, BTW," he went on. "The Colorado Daily did pretty much the same thing... and so did the Post. The Rocky, of course, was worst of all. The Boulder Weekly was pretty much the only Metro Area rag that even made an effort at retaining something resembling balance."
In addition, Churchill wrote that a Camera representative told him that, "despite running editorial material about me every single day, their policy was that responses appearing under my name could not appear more than once or twice per month. They did allow, however, that they were aware that this placed me at a rather glaring disadvantage, and that this was undoubtedly unfair. That's when it was suggested that I write responses under other people's names, and that they'd run them with a wink and a nod, thereby letting me have 'my' say while still maintaining 'appearances' (of what was left a tad mysterious). My response to that proposition was to ask why, if they felt material arguing my case [could] appear under names other than mine, they weren't publishing the material submitted by people like Stannard. I got no answer."
Clint Talbott, the Camera’s editorial page editor, begs to differ. Here’s his take:
Thanks for giving us the opportunity to respond. My brief response is this: The charge that the Camera declined to publish letters and op-eds favorable to Churchill or from Churchill supporters is completely false.
We strove throughout the relevant time to include letters and op-eds from supporters, detractors and those whose opinions could not be easily categorized. Below, you'll see a sample of letters from 2005 that defended Churchill's right to speak, his scholarship and/or his blow-back critique in the "Eichmann" essay." [This material has been placed at the bottom of the blog.] We also published op-eds from vocal defender Tom Mayer, local activist Ty Gee and instructor Ursula Lindquist that challenged the Camera’s editorial view (and the academic committees' damning assessment) of Churchill's academic practices.
For the record, the Camera consistently defended Churchill's right to make provocative claims about 9/11 victims. His scholarship was another matter, to us, and to his colleagues at the university.
I have no record of receiving anything from David Stannard, and I am not familiar with that name. I know I have received suggested op-eds from [CU sociology department staffer Tom] Mayer (and perhaps others) that were far too long to print. I have not spoken to Churchill since sometime in the mid-90s. So this conversation, if it in fact occurred as he says it did, took place either between one of two former editorial writers, one of whom is deceased.
It's easy to say we declined to print "any number" of pro-Churchill pieces. It requires more rigor to specify a number; just a wild guess that he did not specify so much as a ballpark figure. Similarly, it is easy to recount an alleged conversation with an unnamed staff member. It is more revealing to name the staffer (which, I'm inferring, Churchill does not do).
We do have a once-a-month policy on letters. And we do not bend it for public figures, even when they are in the national spotlight. I can certainly believe someone here told him that much. Beyond that, however, I guess you'd have to take Churchill at his word.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
What follows is nearly 7,000 words worth of pro-Churchill material – the sort of commentary that may resurface if and when the onetime CU prof’s lawsuit against the university over his July 2007 dismissal reaches the courtroom stage. By then, Churchill and the Camera will likely have plenty more about which to disagree. -- Michael Roberts
2/1/2005 in Open Forum
WARD CHURCHILL His voice needed to counter prejudice
I have known Ward Churchill for about two decades and have heard him lecture on several different subjects.
Ward is an eloquent and highly informed interpreter of Native American history, as well as a forceful critic of American imperialism. In his lectures, he sometimes makes claims that shock and unsettle his audience. By so doing, he dramatically communicates the perspective of politically conscious indigenous people to the economically privileged students who attend the University of Colorado. I consider this to be an invaluable contribution to the cultural diversity so badly needed on the Boulder campus. Ward Churchill is not simply a person who should be tolerated so we can exhibit our civil libertarian virtues; he is a unique and essential asset to the University of Colorado.
Ward`s writing and lectures illuminate the social conditions that made possible the genocide of the Native American people. His work also reveals the enduring influence of this genocide on American political culture. One such influence is the deep-seated conviction that Americans are better than other people, and that the United States is thus entitled to intervene economically or militarily virtually anywhere.
Another belief at least partially traceable to the genocide of Native Americans is the idea that only American lives matter, and that death or destruction of foreign people is of no moral consequence. The insidious power of these prejudices in today`s world is entirely obvious. The value of having Ward Churchill on the CU faculty should be equally apparent.
Department of Sociology
University of Colorado, Boulder
Coach analog just doesn`t fit
I really like Jon Caldara`s columns, which are always witty and well-written. I`m a liberal, but I`m surprised at how often I agree with him. And when I don`t, I still enjoy reading what he has to say. Whoever he`s skewering that week probably deserves the poke.
In his Jan. 30 column, he effectively points out Ward Churchill`s hypocrisy. But the comparison to Gary Barnett is wrong, because the coach is merely an employee of the athletic department, not a tenured professor. Barnett`s comment about the kicker seriously undermined the PR that his employer was trying to advance at that time, that the department isn`t run by Neanderthals. Taking disciplinary action against him was entirely appropriate. (If he had been granted the right to speak freely on university matters, then there would have been a breach of contract.) True, his comment proved that he`s probably too stupid to ever be a successful coach and that the department is run by Neanderthals, but those are different issues.
But Churchill has been granted tenure, along with many other professors. Tenure includes some very specific rights, which include speaking offensively and being a hypocrite. However, Churchill doesn`t have a monopoly on free speech, as Caldara`s column Sunday illustrates, so our system has rendered the professor`s speech ineffective. I`m sure 99-plus percent of the Boulder population considers Churchill to be a jerk.
The university`s speech policy ought to be (and maybe is): Anyone can speak freely about non-university matters, and faculty with tenure can speak freely about all matters. Students have the same rights as tenured faculty, except that examination answers still get graded. Nobody is exempt from slander, libel or criminal laws or from harassment policies. (I`m wondering what policy Caldara or the CU Republicans are proposing.)
Mr. Caldara, please continue to be as offensive as you like, and I hope the Camera never tries to censor you.
WARD CHURCHILL: Supression of dissent troubling
Rep. Tom Wiens, R-Castle Rock says "the taxpayers are paying University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill $94,000 a year. I think the average taxpayer would be pretty disgusted to know their hard-earned dollars are supporting a guy who defends America`s enemies."
I may not be average, but I am a taxpayer, and what actually disgusts me is the billions and billions of our hard-earned dollars being spent on the Iraq war, by a president who aggresses so blatantly against any convenient "enemy." I disagree with Mr. Churchill that the twin towers victims were like Nazis, although I believe he has a point about the Pentagon being a legitimate military target.
However, the point is not whether I, or anyone else, agrees or disagrees with Mr. Churchill. The point is the First Amendment, duh. I worry that our country is swinging into fascism when dissent is punished so harshly. A lesson I learned in grade school comes to mind: I may not agree with what he said, but I will defend his right to say it. For my money, I want our democracy back.
Teach them well: Don`t speak out
The furor over University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill is a good lesson for all of us.
Students are learning that there will be serious consequences if you dare to speak out against U.S. government policies.
Right-wing fanatics will try to get you fired. Radio talk-show hosts will try to incite violence against you. Bullies will use brownshirt tactics and death threats to intimidate you. Forget the First Amendment. Follow the party line and keep your mouth shut.
Now get down on your knees and lick the boots of George W. Bush.
A. J. ANDREWS
WARD CHURCHILL: University is the place for debate
Then they came for the university professors. I consider Ward Churchill a friend as well as a crucial voice for the oppressed, the minorities, the voiceless.
What is a university without critical thought and academic debate? It`s essential for each of us to speak up for free speech while it`s still legal to do so.
CHURCHILL: Prof opens eyes of his students
An education is hinged strongly on a university`s staff and its ability to encourage students to think. After all, books are available to anyone. The point of choosing and attending a university is to learn by exposing yourself to theories and opinions not available elsewhere.
Just before the Ward Churchill essay incident was front-page news, a friend was telling me of attending a class of Professor Churchill`s. In that class, the professor was able to put U.S. domestic policy during the time of western expansion into terms that his class of predominantly white, privileged students was able to understand. While Ward Churchill wasn`t saying anything that hadn`t been said hundreds of times over, he was able to restate it in a way that opened his students` eyes and made them think about it, perhaps for the first time. This is the mark of a true educator.
Just over three years ago, while we were still reeling from the shock of an attack, Ward Churchill tried to answer the question we all were asking: "Why?" Do I think that his answers were accurate? It doesn`t matter. It`s an injustice to Professor Churchill and to his former, current and future students that we`re clamoring to punish him for offering them.
CHURCHILL: No contradiction in internal critique
Several of the letters (Open Forum, Feb. 2) protesting Ward Churchill`s writings about the complicity between American capitalism and American imperialism reach triumphantly, as they see it, for the trump card: if Churchill can be so outspoken against American capitalism, then he shouldn`t be "drawing a salary paid by the bourgeois class."
This position ignores the fundamental principle of a democracy, that everyone has a right to free speech no matter who`s paying him or her. (The young Republican supporting Churchill, pictured in today`s paper, Aaron Smith, deserves our praise and admiration for upholding this principle.) The implication from these naysayers, in other words, is: if you are paid by the capitalists, you have to believe in their position and in some of the consequences of it (such as unjustified wars on foreign nations and the resulting deaths of many thousands of people); from here one is on the road to a totalitarian state.
Ward Churchill is, undeniably, taking a politically and personally complex position, but it is a position that some of the major Western poets and thinkers of the past 200 years have attended to: to name just a few -- William Blake, Theodor Adorno, Louis Althusser and Michel de Certeau. All acknowledge the difficulty of the stance of a Ward Churchill: how do you criticize the social sytstem in which you live from within that society; how can you even think outside of that society`s box? None of the answers given are easy, but all of these thinkers believe passionately that such opportunities for critique are essential for the maintenance and progress of democracy.
JEFFREY C. ROBINSON
Professor of English
University of Colorado
CHURCHILL: Though it`s madness, there is method in it
More Americans should read Ward Churchill`s now infamous essay "Some People Push Back..." (http://passionbomb.com/words/push_roost.htm). Nearly all are likely to find much of it either repugnant, perplexing or both. A relative few, however, may recognize the value in taking at least one look at 9/11 as Professor Churchill sees it.
If we can somehow come to grips with the troubling fact that those brutal attacks were neither mindless nor unprovoked, and that it is possible to be similarly revolted by certain aspects of our own foreign policy, perhaps we can find our way forward to a more humane future.
FREEDOM: Do we remember what we stand for?
We find in today`s newspaper (Feb. 4) students being ejected from public meetings and forcibly restrained for trying to speak in defense of a professor, book banning in Colorado, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice condemning Iran for human-rights violations (when the U.S. military has "detainees" from 40 different countries imprisoned for years with no access to legal counsel and without being charged with a crime) and reports of torture coming out regularly. And a high-ranking general making statements about how much "fun" it is to shoot people.
How can the current regime be surprised when comparisons are made with Germany in the `30s? As they say, "if it looks like a duck and acts like a duck ..."
Lastly, to the shrill conservative voices we hear saying "I don`t want my tax dollars supporting a professor who (fill in the blank)," I say that I`m not to crazy about my tax dollars supporting public servants who condone any of the aforementioned activities.
Professors are supposed to enlighten by encouraging debate. Public servants are paid to carry out policy laid down by the president.
It`s a sad day for freedom today.
CHURCHILL: Protester, not cops, started the melee
The Daily Camera`s biases were never more evident than the front page article today on the "Churchill confrontation" (News, Feb. 4).
The event was widely broadcast on the evening news. Vanessa Miller`s article falls far short of accurately describing the event that most of us saw on television. It was Mr. Aleem`s violent shove that led to the picture you ran on page one. How could you fail to mention that? You are clearly going beyond reporting the news to trying to shape the news through biased reporting.
Usual suspects say usual things
The angry flailing of Ward Churchill has provoked predictable reactions from the usual suspects. Conservatives have tried to silence him, while liberals have raised the free speech issue. This paper has taken its typical position that, while we find his statements outrageous, he has the right to speak and shouldn`t be fired.
Nowhere in all of this does anyone address the substance of Churchill`s essay. OK, the Eichmann analogy was stupid, but what about the underlying message? Do we bear a collective responsibility for the actions of our government? As functionaries for transnational business and banking, do we endorse, even promote in some way, the foreign policies of our government -- policies designed to make our businesses easier and more profitable? An interesting social question, but lost under the 500-pound red herring of the Eichmann remark.
Churchill made the point that we were attacked because of our foreign policy. He was merely stating the obvious, but his point was lost when his ramblings came close to implying we deserved it. And that is what everyone locked on to. It`s unfortunate, because the lie that we were attacked because "they hate our freedom" will likely get us attacked again. Churchill is angry, as am I, that certain things about 9/11 are off limits for debate. Like why we were attacked. On Sept. 13, 2001, this paper went so far as to editorialize that there was "no reason" for the attack. Surely that meant there was no justification, because there was certainly a reason.
I have a hunch that the flap over Churchill`s essay has more to do with fear of the underlying message than offense at the ridiculous way it was presented. But we won`t talk about that.
LETTERS: Churchill flap offers teachable moment
As an educator, I look for what are called "teaching moments," real-life actions that help illustrate ideas or theories that can be difficult to grasp in the abstract.
For that reason, I am profoundly grateful to the leaders of the University of Colorado and Hamilton College for their recent actions concerning Ward Churchill, a University of Colorado professor whose essay on the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has aroused diverse passions and differing interpretations.
Officials at the University of Colorado and Hamilton College have opened a door through which I would hope that students, faculty and anyone else interested in the complex interplay of ideas and power will run through.
The present controversy concerns the roles of intellectuals and institutions in erecting, legitimizing and perpetuating the myths and bounds of "responsible commentary" which define the boundaries of "acceptable" discussion and debate of an issue. Evidently, Professor Churchill has crossed those boundaries. The firestorm surrounding his essay and scheduled speaking appearances suggest that now is a perfect time to debate those ideas. And where else but on college campuses (and in the hearts and minds of anyone who cares about ideas, principles and intellectual consistency) should that debate take place?
How about collegiate teach-ins that critically examine the role of intellectuals and the state? If this were my class, I would start by reading MIT Professor Noam Chomsky`s powerful essay, "The Responsibility of Intellectuals," written nearly 40 years ago and included in his book, "American Power and the New Mandarins." The more things change, the more they remain the same.
And for college and high school students who are dismayed by the actions of the leaders of the University of Colorado and Hamilton College, consider transferring or applying to the University of Chicago, where ideas have been fiercely debated and honored for more than a century.
2/9/2005 Open Forum
'BIG FATHER` Conservatives seek to control us all
I am glad that I live in Boulder where at least some people remember, "I don`t agree with what he said but I defend to the death his right to say it."
We need to realize that when conservatives call for an end to tenure, they want control over opposing views, not justice or democracy.
Conservatives want to be the all-powerful, controlling father figure. Liberals, women and children should know their place, i.e., under the control of the "father" (thus the call for merit pay for teachers who are frequently both liberal and female, and the opposition to women`s choice). "Big Brother" is really more like "Big Daddy."
For more on the conservative agenda I highly recommend the book "Don`t Think of an Elephant" by George Lakoff. If you`re still upset by the November election (and like your icing before the cake) start at Chapter 8, "What Unites Progressives."
Co-chair, Socialist Party U.S.A.
WARD CHURCHILL: Media squealing, but not informing
My goodness, aren`t we testy about Mr. Churchill these days? The man simply called a spade a spade, and the government`s own little bunch of Eichmanns (OK, OK, Goebbels) in the elite media squeal like stuck pigs. Well, hey, somebody`s gotta start talking about the real reasons why two American cities were attacked, because the press sure ain`t talking! Squealing maybe -- but not talking.
I can see you all: the editors, producers and network-nitwits alike, all across America: squirming, twisting and agonizing in the wrath of Professor Churchill`s scalding words -- and praying for Michael Jackson`s trial to start.
Weeeeeee! Weeeeeee! Weeeeeee!
Once again, critics are getting gagged
The efforts to silence Ward Churchill and to scrutinize his academic record in order to find some basis to dismiss him reminds me of efforts that were used to silence critics of the Vietnam War while I was in college. It is no secret that the Johnson and Nixon White Houses, as well as complicit university administrators, often fired teachers who spoke out against that war, using trumped-up charges of the person being a "bad teacher," "poor researcher" or simply being unneeded. What happened was that critics of the war were targeted, whereas supporters were not.
Ward Churchill, and his right to speak his mind about American domestic and foreign policy, are under attack because of his message that the United States has oppressed and killed people domestically and abroad without justification and, that it has violated human rights and international law. We now have a president who lied about "weapons of mass destruction" in order to push through an invasion of a country that was not threatening us. We have an attorney general-to-be who put American civilians and soldiers at risk, as well as those from other countries, because he felt that the Geneva Conventions did not apply and that torture was an appropriate means of interrogation.
We have a secretary of state who repeatedly provided Americans with false information about the alleged Iraqi threat in order to justify the invasion. Now, the chorus of right-wing radio hosts can be heard weighing against Mr. Churchill, again because he speaks against United States hegemony, rather than in favor of it. Ironically, one of the radio hosts who expresses outrage that Churchill is "inciting" -- Dan Caplis -- speaks at anti-abortion rallies to the type of wackos and murderers who kill doctors who perform abortions.
To me, the fundamental issue is who sets the rules of speech. If the rule is that you lose your right to speak or invite retaliation by criticizing the United States, then Mr. Churchill has no chance. If, however, the Constitution protects speech whether it is for or against policies of our country, then this witch hunt will be defeated.
I support Mr. Churchill's right to speak whether I agree with his views or not. I am more concerned by the fact that he is being persecuted simply because of his views against American foreign and domestic policies.
Looking for some offensive speech?
As White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales wrote in a 2002 memo that "war against terrorism" renders "obsolete" portions of the Geneva Convention. Opposing recognition of Geneva rights for Soviet soldiers, General Wilhelm Keitel, head of Hitler`s armed forces, said the convention was "obsolete."
As Assistant Attorney General, Jay Bybee in a 2002 memo narrowed the definition of torture in another convention. His definition permitted the United States -- and other governments -- to injure prisoners so long as there is no "organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or ... death."
Former federal prosecutor Kenneth Roth, now with Human Rights Watch, noted that Bybee`s definition would allow governments to sever fingers or hands without committing "torture."
Gen. James Mattis, speaking of his war experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq, said last week: "Actually it`s quite fun to fight 'em, you know. It`s a hell of a hoot. It`s fun to shoot some people."
Ward Churchill, a tenured CU ethnic studies professor, wrote in a 2001 essay that those who attacked the twin towers believed that its occupants were complicit in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children and therefore were legitimate targets.
Gonzales now is attorney general, the country`s chief law enforcement officer. Bybee now is a federal judge in the second highest court in the country. Mattis` superior defended him: "While I understand some people may take issue with the comments, I also know he intended to reflect the unfortunate and harsh realities of war." Mattis will retain his job as commander of a military post responsible for teaching combat to Marines.
Churchill is being investigated. After unanimously "apologizing" to "all Americans" for Churchill`s thoughts in his essay, the CU regents mandated "review" of all his writings, speeches and tape recordings. After the investigation, CU said, it may fire Churchill.
CHURCHILL: Academic freedom is core to university
As faculty of the University of Colorado, we share in the sadness and anger occasioned by Ward Churchill`s article about Sept. 11. We are also heartened to see so much speech that honors those who were killed and that condemns those who were responsible for the attacks. This sort of counter-speech is often the gift of the speech that we abhor.
Knowing the frailties of human beings all too well, the framers of our Constitution denied the government the right to limit freedom of speech and trusted citizens to think for themselves. As professors, we also trust CU students to respond to ideas on their own merits. Over time, academic freedom has come to join freedom of speech, press, assembly and religion as an essential component of constitutional liberty. As the Supreme Court noted in Keyishian v. Board of Regents (1967), "Our Nation is deeply committed to safeguarding academic freedom, which is of transcendent value to all of us and not merely to the teachers concerned. That freedom is therefore a special concern of the First Amendment, which does not tolerate laws that cast a pall of orthodoxy over the classroom."
While a law abridging speech is not at issue with respect to professor Churchill, academic freedom and freedom of political speech more generally certainly are at stake. In particular, the proposal made to review all departments and curricula at CU is one that must be rejected as incompatible with academic freedom, as are all efforts to terminate Churchill`s employment on the basis of the political content of his remarks. While we feel deeply offended by professor Churchill`s comments and regret the pain they have caused, as a matter of principle we must stand by his right to make them.
Professor, Political Science
Acting Director, CU Keller Center for the
Study of the First Amendment
Professor, Political Science
Professor, Political Science
Foolish rhetoric obscures points
My dear departed dad used to say, "if you decide to shoot yourself in the foot, you should also decide to use a small caliber weapon." Ward Churchill clearly made that first decision. He ignored the second.
He thus did himself and his cause a great injustice. He used such inflammatory rhetoric that he became an instant delight for the press in exaggerating controversy to increase readership/viewership, and his message and logic have become buried in colliding conflagrations. If his objective is to get publicity and get people to react emotionally, then he can declare "mission accomplished." I do think he, and others such as Noam Chomsky, raise important issues regarding responsibilities of people living in a nation that is invading other countries and killing people there. Can we comfortably and quietly pay our taxes and thus support the killing of others?
It is particularly painful for me to see the important issues buried under the competing avalanches of emotion. I spent the months of August through November of last year doing writing, research and travel in two countries of Central America and two countries of east Asia. I had countless conversations with people in those countries about 9/11, U.S. foreign policy, and the dramatic changes in attitude toward the United States by people in those countries. Most statements by foreigners contained these elements: 1) The United States had immense sympathy following the attacks. 2) Had the United States worked with the rest of the world`s countries, we could have made significant progress in the effort to stifle terrorism. 3) The unilateral, misguided and vicious U.S. invasion of Iraq has squandered that golden opportunity, and turned the United States from a paragon to a pariah.
Ward Churchill`s more careful thinking and nonpolemical writing involve these issues, and I only wish he could discuss them in serious ways like Noam Chomsky, and not in inflammatory ways. Does Churchill have the right to say anything, anywhere? Of course not; he cannot falsely yell "fire" in a crowded theater. Does he have the right to say the things he has been saying? Yes, of course he does. He has the constitutionally guaranteed right to make a fool of himself, and he certainly has exercised that one. But his tenure at the university should not be threatened. University faculty and administrators must protect his tenure and remember the First Amendment to the Constitution. The freedom of expression is of towering importance in times like these. I hope we learned something from the fanaticism of the McCarthy era.
7/3/2006 OPEN FORUM
WARD CHURCHILL: Why`s the Camera so on his case?
Is the Daily Camera angling for an Elian Gonzalez award in yellow journalism? Your relentless, gleeful, sadistic persecution of Ward Churchill looks like it`s about to culminate in an outcome being cheered by the yammering brownshirt, KKK, and Know-Nothing wing of the Republican (rob-the-public-again) Party. Oh, wait, that "is" the Republican Party.
Why the phony furor over a years`-old, obscure post likening some Sept. 11 victims to a former salesman of Vacuum Oil company? One would think that the fatuous fascist forces would be grateful that Churchill didn`t make a much more obvious and compelling argument that 9/11 was likely a false-flag, "Reichstag" event.
Oh, that`s right. That old comment was protected, and had nothing to do with the witch-hunt.
Was it really all about unsubstantiated claims of smallpox used as WMD? That would be highly hypocritical, but perhaps, was it hitting too close to the truth about our secret use of biological weapons against Korea? Or was it about him pointing out the dark, ugly, "genocidal" side of Columbus day?
Just like our stupid, costly, illegal invasion of Iraq, we may never know your real motivations in "getting" Professor Churchill. I admire his integrity, strength, articulate knowledge, patience, and grace under fire.
Bill Owens and Bob Beauprez are despicable, draft-dodging posers. Ward Churchill is a real, decorated veteran.
6/14/2005 Sample of guest opinions
By Tom Mayer
Ward Churchill is a politically committed intellectual in the mold of Rosa Luxemburg, W.E.B. DuBois, Jean-Paul Sartre, Linus Pauling, Edward Said, and Noam Chomsky. Churchill has influenced how we think about indigenous people.
In particular he has compelled us to entertain three interrelated propositions: 1) The genocide of indigenous people is not just a regrettable episode of bygone times, but an ongoing political and ecological reality. 2) The principal force behind this ongoing genocide is the voracious appetite of advanced capitalist societies for both profit and consumption. 3) Most Americans have, in one way or another, collaborated in the destruction of indigenous peoples and cultures.
Thus Americans are likely to be targeted when forceful resistance movements emerge. These propositions are exceedingly unwelcome to persons in power and to all uncritical celebrants of American civilization. Given the illegal and unsuccessful war in Iraq, a war that vindicates some of the foregoing claims, the current campaign to silence and discredit Ward Churchill is hardly surprising.
In its most recent attack upon Professor Churchill (Editorial, June 6), the Daily Camera asserts that faculty members should not be allowed to "inoculate themselves against professional scrutiny merely by being outrageous." This formulation puts the cart before the horse.
Ward Churchill is not being outrageous in order to protect himself from professional scrutiny. On the contrary, he is being subjected to intense and almost unprecedented scrutiny precisely because some people consider him outrageous. The motivation behind the current scrutiny is not defending academic standards, but rather eliminating an acerbic and persistent critic of American society. The inquisition of Ward Churchill will make it far more difficult for faculty members at the University of Colorado or anywhere elsewhere to say things deemed outrageous by the reigning guardians of political and cultural propriety. Professors are on notice that heresy will henceforth put their jobs in jeopardy.
I have not seen or read the "The Water Plot" article which the Camera editorial identifies as the smoking gun of plagiarism. The Dam the Dams group, from which Churchill supposedly plagiarized, was part of a broad new left movement for social change, a movement in which I also participated. Movement people did not conceive the world in terms of property rights, nor were they obsessed with using publications to chalk up status points. Thus the ethics of citation within the new left movement differed substantially from standard academic protocol.
I am quite familiar with four of Ward Churchill`s books and with a considerable number of his articles. All of these works are densely footnoted and replete with numerous references. The citations known to me are entirely appropriate, and the author`s comments about his sources are always informative and sometimes incisive.
Nor is Ward Churchill hesitant to acknowledge intellectual debts. His writings include frequent thanks to people from whom he has learned or borrowed ideas. Given his idiosyncratic admixture of exposition and polemic, I find it hard to imagine how or from whom he could plagiarize. As with any prolific author, certain themes and certain phrases appear again and again. Fortunately the mainstream media have not yet defined self-quotation as a surreptitious form of plagiarism. Bernard Shaw once remarked: "I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation"
The current investigation of Ward Churchill clearly results from political pressure. Some members of the power elite and some self-proclaimed patriots want to rid the university of a troublesome politically committed intellectual who exercises significant influence on students and the reading public. They are willing to use any politically tolerable means of doing so.
Unfortunately the powers that be at the University of Colorado have capitulated to this intimidation. An opportunistic investigation of one politically beleaguered professor will do nothing to strengthen academic ethics. Indeed the investigation is rather like gathering evidence by illegal means for use in a judicial procedure. Moreover, punishing Ward Churchill will do nothing to curtail scholarly malfeasance. Such punishment would, however, constitute a stunning blow to critical thinking and to genuine academic freedom. It would also confirm CU`s longstanding reputation as an institution unfriendly to people of color. By their relentless vendetta against Ward Churchill, the Rocky Mountain News and the Daily Camera promote these worthy objectives.
Thomas F. Mayer is a professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Fourth Estate goes AWOL
By Ty Gee
An authoritarian government cannot coexist with a free press. When the press cheerlead the government's investigation and punishment of a citizen brought about by her political statements, it chills speech and encourages government suppression of dissent and ideas.
The press earned its position as the "Fourth Estate" by acting as a check on the potent powers of government and ensuring that its powers are exercised responsibly and in accord with individual liberties. The American press, such as it is, can carry that mantle only if it continues to discharge that function, that duty. Otherwise, there isn't much separating the press from tabloids and blogs.
The Camera's May 17 treatment of the Ward Churchill story - its front page tabloid "display" - on Ward Churchill, emblazoning "Deliberate Misconduct" in one-inch lettering just above a 7-inch-tall file photo it selected of a scowling Churchill and devoting two-thirds of the front page to the display, had all the makings of the worst kind of sensationalist journalism. It had nothing to do with the Fourth Estate, and much to do with the Camera's apparent view of the proper comeuppance for an unpopular citizen.
In the accompanying editorial ("Churchill unmasked"), the Camera proves that its enthusiasm for its point of view is so great it's willing to deceive itself. In the editorial, the Camera says "those who still cling to the fiction that Churchill is the victim of a political witch hunt should look at the evidence," and "the issue isn't free speech. It's academic dishonesty."
The mental gymnastics needed to believe this cannot be performed even by agile journalists. There is fiction here, but the Camera's doing all the writing. Try as one may, it is impossible to divorce Churchill's 9/11 essay from the university's investigation: as the Churchill committee suggested, the "evidence" is that without the 9/11 essay, there would be no investigation.
The Camera's repeated condemnation of Churchill follows a formula: first, the Camera utters the platitude that his 9/11 essay is First Amendment-protected speech for which he cannot be punished; then it unleashes an attack against Churchill for "academic fraud" or not being "Indian" or "Indian enough" (The Camera had argued that Churchill's assertion of American Indian ancestry should be "central to the investigation of his fitness to serve on the faculty at CU" (Editorial, "A question of ancestry," Feb. 27, 2005), a position even the university rejected.) That the Camera had to mention Churchill's 9/11 essay at all when condemning him says a lot about whether even the Camera seriously thinks it can uncouple its vituperation regarding Churchill's "academic fraud" - which it says is subject to proper government sanction - from Churchill's essay - which it says is "protected speech."
The Fourth Estate point is this: The government is a powerful institution. It always wants, but hardly needs, the press' help in declawing a citizen who has criticized the government or has advanced an unpopular and - like the Camera - even vituperative, but purely political, position. The democratic function of the press, of the Fourth Estate, is to act as a bulwark against governmental overreaching, to speak truth to power. Sadly, the Camera was all but absent on May 17.
Ironically, it was Chairwoman Marianne Wesson and the other committee members who, admirably, discharged the important functions of the Fourth Estate, candidly expressing their concern about "the timing and, perhaps, the motives for the university's decision to initiate these charges at this time," and noting that the charges against Churchill were brought only after his 9/11 essay was discovered. (To its credit, the Camera's news section covered these comments on May 17.)
Importantly, they also recognized that some members of the media, elected officials and public figures have stoked or exploited the controversy surrounding Churchill for their own ends.
It may be that Churchill committed academic misconduct for which there should be a penalty. But when the university - with the Camera as booster - has written an end and is in search of the means, it's awfully difficult for us citizens to figure out whether the government in fact is punishing him for his "academic misconduct," or his "protected speech," although there is no shortage of clues.
In acclaiming the university's new play, "A Legal Way to Terminate Churchill Without Infringing His First Amendment Rights (Wink, Wink)," the Camera does a persuasive job of letting us know we citizens won't have the Fourth Estate to help us figure this one out.
Ty Gee is a resident of Louisville.
Academic freedom is threatened
By Ursula Lindqvist
I agree strongly with Clint Talbott, whose column "Academic freedom not on trial" (July 9) argues that the Ward Churchill case is not akin to the Morris Judd case from the Red Scare of the 1950s. I further agree that the threat to academic freedom is not the same now as it was then.
It is worse now.
Then, the threat to academic freedom was against an individual who, irrespective of academic discipline, was suspected of affiliation with the Communist Party.
The dismissal of Judd, an instructor of philosophy at CU, was clearly a violation of his civil rights and never should have happened.
But think about this. The Philosophy Department at CU was not then, and never has been since, under threat of extinction because of action taken against Judd (who was not a tenured or tenure-track professor) or against any other individual. Judd`s dismissal, while deeply unjust, caused no harm to the discipline in which he worked. There are currently 19 tenured or tenure-track professors in philosophy at CU.
Philosophy, as a field and as a department, enjoys enormous support from the CU administration, and its individual faculty never need worry that action taken against a single member would reflect on the department or on the academic field.
This is not the case with the dismissal of Professor Ward Churchill. CU`s Ethnic Studies Department, like the ethnic studies field nationally, has had to fight for its right to exist and be counted as a legitimate area of academic inquiry since its inception, and that struggle is ongoing. Currently (excluding Churchill), there are only six tenured faculty and three tenure-track faculty in the entire department, which represents no fewer than five distinct disciplines: African American Studies, American Indian Studies, Asian American Studies, Chicano Studies and Comparative American Studies.
Churchill and Professor Natsu Taylor Saito have been the only two professors working full time in American Indian Studies at CU. (Professor Deward Walker, who also works in the program, has a joint appointment with anthropology. There are scholars outside the American Indian Studies program, such as in the history and women`s studies departments and the School of Law, who work on American Indian issues, but they work primarily in their respective disciplines.) With Churchill`s dismissal and Saito`s impending departure to Georgia State University, the American Indian Studies program at CU is effectively being dismantled. A small program cannot lose two senior scholars in a single year without devastating consequences.
How is this not a threat to academic freedom?
CU faculty and administrators have been so busy expressing anger at Professor Churchill, and distancing themselves from his actions, that we are failing to answer this very real threat to academic freedom. To answer it, the University of Colorado at Boulder must commit itself to recruiting senior scholars in American Indian Studies to the ethnic studies faculty. This will be an enormous challenge that demands an enormous commitment, as CU is not perceived as a particularly welcoming place for such scholars at the moment.
But the burden is clearly on the CU administration, and on the CU faculty, to demonstrate that we do not extend CU`s condemnation of an individual scholar to the scholar`s program, department, or academic discipline. If CU is truly committed to the practice of academic freedom, and not just the idea of it, it is time to put some committed recruiting efforts behind these generic expressions of support for Ethnic Studies and American Indian Studies. If such efforts already are underway, CU should not keep quiet about them.
I am not on the Ethnic Studies faculty. I am not an American Indian, and I know embarrassingly little about American Indian Studies for someone born and raised in this country. I am not acquainted with Ward Churchill personally or professionally, and this should not be about personalities anyway. I am a non-tenure-track instructor in a small program within a small European languages and literature`s department at CU, and as such I understand very well that a small academic program cannot lose 80 percent of its faculty in a single year, particularly under such bitterly divisive circumstances, and expect to remain viable without a renewed commitment.
The Nobel-Prize winning poet T.S. Eliot once said, "I cannot read Norwegian poetry, but if I were told that no more poetry was being written in the Norwegian language I should feel an alarm which would be much more than generous sympathy. I should regard it as a spot of malady which was likely to spread over the whole Continent." All of us engaged in the practice of education in any capacity should be deeply concerned about this imminent threat to academic freedom. If we allow an entire academic program to be dismantled at a leading research university in the aftermath of the Ward Churchill case, we are complicit in a wrong with far greater consequences than the unjust dismissal of a single philosophy instructor in the 1950s.
Ursula Lindqvist is an instructor in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures University of Colorado at Boulder.