- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 24, 2005

DENVER — A three-member University of Colorado panel yesterday referred for further investigation charges that Ward Churchill committed plagiarism and lied about having Indian heritage.

But the panel said his essay comparing September 11 victims to Nazis constituted protected speech and did not provide grounds to fire the tenured professor of ethnic studies.

Interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano said the seven-week preliminary review found that Mr. Churchill committed no violation in describing victims of the terrorist attacks as “little Eichmanns.”

“While there are limits to the protections afforded by the Constitution, our review has determined that those limits have not been exceeded in professor Churchill’s case,” Mr. DiStefano said at a press conference yesterday.

But Mr. Churchill still could be fired based on the outcome of a full probe by the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct, comprising nine faculty members.

Mr. DiStefano directed the committee to focus on two claims: that Mr. Churchill lied about his Indian heritage to gain credibility in his field, and that he plagiarized some of his research and writings.

“We have determined that these allegations of research misconduct warrant reference to the standing committee,” he said.

Three professors at other universities have said that Mr. Churchill plagiarized their work or invented facts and historical incidents. Mr. Churchill also has long claimed to be a Cherokee, including on his employment application. But tribal spokesmen said he has never proved it.

Mr. Churchill dismissed the review as a pointless exercise, telling TV station KUSA that “the findings on the speech issue is validating the idea that there was not a basis to begin an investigation in the first place.”

He called the other charges “politically motivated” and “an attempt to backfill baseless charges that were made in the first instance.”

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican who has called on the university to fire Mr. Churchill, said he understood the university’s decision to proceed cautiously.

“I believe this demonstrates that the university is taking the allegations seriously, as well they should,” he said.

But other Churchill critics faulted the school for not including other misconduct charges in the probe, including falsifying the details of his military service, copying artwork and selling it under his name, and advocating the violent overthrow of the United States.

Craig Silverman, a lawyer and co-host of a radio show on KHOW-AM, said Mr. DiStefano “did Ward Churchill a great favor.”

“I’m disappointed in what the chancellor did because of political correctness. … [He] punted.”

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