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University fires Churchill
Question of the Day
The University of Colorado Board of Regents voted 8-1 to dismiss Mr. Churchill, a tenured professor of ethnic studies, after a 2½-year investigation that found him guilty of plagiarizing, inventing facts and misrepresenting the research of others. The sole dissenting vote was cast by Cindy Carlisle, a Boulder Democrat who did so without comment.
“This case was a very clear example, not of mistakes — this was a clear example of an effort to falsify history and fabricate history,” said university President Hank Brown, who recommended Mr. Churchill’s dismissal in May after three faculty probes.
“And I think it was compounded in the final analysis by the fact that the individual did not express regret, did not apologize, and did not, at least in the record I saw, indicate a willingness to refrain from this kind of falsification in the future,” Mr. Brown said.
Firing Mr. Churchill was necessary to protect the university’s reputation for research integrity, he said, which had suffered in the wake of disclosures surrounding the flamboyant, long-haired, self-professed American Indian who became a national symbol of academic outrageousness, sparking a new round of criticism over tenured radicals and renewing calls for greater intellectual diversity on campus.
Refusing to go quietly, Mr. Churchill left the university’s Glenn Miller Ballroom chanting and beating a traditional Indian drum while supporters carried an American Indian Movement banner. With him were AIM activists Russell Means and Glenn Morris, who teaches at the university.
David Lane, Mr. Churchill’s attorney, said he would file a lawsuit today challenging his client’s dismissal. He accused the university of firing Mr. Churchill based on his September 11 remarks, a violation of his First Amendment rights, and using charges of academic misconduct as a smoke screen.
“The more the public sees, the more the public knows, the more they will realize that this is a political maneuver, and that Ward Churchill’s termination is based solely on his free speech,” said Mr. Lane.
He blasted the nine-member board for meeting in private to discuss Mr. Churchill’s fate, instead of opening the proceedings to the public. Board members appeared briefly before voting to convene for the rest of the day to executive session, a standard practice in personnel matters.
“This is all being done behind closed doors, out of the public eye, and that’s wrong,” said Mr. Lane, calling the board meeting a “scripted performance.”
Mr. Churchill, 52, was a prolific writer and longtime activist with the American Indian Movement before his essay catapulted him to the national stage in 2005. Questions about his academic integrity emerged as the essay drew attention to his previous work.
Mr. Churchill stepped down as chairman of the ethnic studies department but kept his teaching position. The university initiated a faculty investigation into his academic research but specifically excluded the September 11 essay, calling it protected speech.
In May 2006, a five-member faculty investigative committee found that Mr. Churchill had committed six instances of research misconduct. In one case, he was found to have invented facts to support his thesis that the Army intentionally spread smallpox to the Indians through infected blankets. In another case, he ghostwrote papers under different surnames, then cited those sources in footnotes to back up research completed under his own name, the committee said.
He also plagiarized the work of Canadian academic Fay Cohen in a paper on fishing rights, the committee found.
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