Fire­proof? Sus­pen­sion urged for con­tro­ver­sial Colorado pro­fes­sor

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Va­lerie Richard­son

DEN­VER — A fac­ulty com­mit­tee re­view­ing Univer­sity of Colorado pro­fes­sor Ward Churchill’s aca­demic mis­con­duct has rec­om­mended that he re­ceive a one-year sus­pen­sion in­stead of dis­missal, his at­tor­ney said on May 16.

“We feel any dis­ci­pline is not war­ranted, but at least they’re mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion,” said Churchill at­tor­ney David Lane. “This will make it more dif­fi­cult for Hank Brown and the [Board of] Re­gents to fire him.”

The dis­clo­sure was a blow to crit­ics of Mr. Churchill, who was found last year to have com­mit­ted pla­gia­rism, fab­ri­cat­ing and fal­si­fy­ing re­search by a fac­ulty-led in­ves­tiga­tive com­mit­tee.

“Keep­ing Ward Churchill on is an in­sult to the vast ma­jor­ity of univer­sity in­struc­tors and pro­fes­sors who work hard, do their own re­search and main­tain high stan­dards,” said Brad Jones, a Den­ver­based po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant.

The com­mit­tee’s rec­om­men­da­tion mud­dles what had ap­peared to be a steady march of events lead­ing to Mr. Churchill’s re­moval. In June 2006, for­mer in­terim Chan­cel­lor Phil DiSte­fano rec­om­mended fir­ing the eth­nic-stud­ies pro­fes­sor based on the re­sults of the fac­ulty in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

A few weeks later, Mr. Churchill asked to have the case re­viewed by the Priv­i­lege and Ten­ure Com­mit­tee, a stan­dard pro­ce­dure for fac­ulty mem­bers faced with dis­missal.

The panel’s rec­om­men­da­tion, along with the re­sults of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and Mr. DeSte­fano’s ad­vice, will be weighed now by Pres­i­dent Hank Brown, who has un­til May 29 to act on the case.

The re­port can’t save Mr. Churchill from dis­missal, but it cer­tainly buys him more time. If Mr. Brown calls for Mr. Churchill’s dis­missal, the case goes back to the Priv­i­lege and Ten­ure Com­mit­tee for a sec­ond re­view. Mr. Brown can also close the case or call for a lesser pun­ish­ment.

If Mr. Brown still sup­ports fir­ing Mr. Churchill af­ter the re­view, the case goes to the Board of Re­gents, which has the fi­nal vote on whether to dis­miss tenured fac­ulty.

Jes­sica Peck Corry, di­rec­tor of the Cam­pus Ac­count­abil­ity Project for the In­de­pen­dence In­sti­tute, said that the univer­sity has come un­der pres­sure lately to re­tain Mr. Churchill.

Last month at Cornell Univer­sity, Mr. Lane said he would chal­lenge any ef­fort to dis­miss or sus­pend his client. “If they dis­ci­pline Ward Churchill at all, we’re go­ing to fed­eral court,” said Mr. Lane.

Mr. Brown, a Repub­li­can who served two terms in the U.S. Se­nate, is still study­ing the panel’s re­port and plans to con­sult with the univer­sity coun­sel next week, said univer­sity spokes­woman Michele McKin­ney.

She de­clined to con­firm whether the com­mit­tee had rec­om­mended sus­pend­ing Mr. Churchill, say­ing it in­volved a per­son­nel mat­ter and was there­fore con­fi­den­tial.

Mr. Churchill burst onto the na­tional stage two years ago for an es­say that com­pared vic­tims of the Septem­ber 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks to Nazis. Those com­ments were de­clared ex­empt from the in­ves­ti­ga­tion af­ter the univer­sity ruled that they fell un­der the cat­e­gory of pro­tected speech.

Even so, Mr. Lane has main­tained that his client is be­ing at­tacked for his in­flam­ma­tory re­marks, not his job per­for­mance.

“The whole thing is mo­ti­vated by his First Amend­ment com­ments. Even the com­mit­tee has ad­mit­ted that it was his com­ments that started the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” said Mr. Lane.

This ar­ti­cle is based in part on wire ser­vice re­ports.

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