Rad­i­cal ex-pro­fes­sor fights to get his job back

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY VA­LERIE RICHARDSON

DEN­VER | For­mer Uni­ver­sity of Colorado pro­fes­sor Ward Churchill went to court March 10 in a bid to get his job back, con­tend­ing that he never com­mit­ted pla­gia­rism and was in­stead jet­ti­soned for liken­ing Sept. 11 vic­tims to Nazi bu­reau­crats when blam­ing what he called un­just U.S. pol­icy for the ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

David Lane, Mr. Churchill’s at­tor­ney, ar­gued that the uni­ver­sity caved un­der pres­sure from the “howl­ing mob,” which he de­scribed as a na­tion­wide con­ser­va­tive smear cam­paign aimed at de­stroy­ing Mr. Churchill’s rep­u­ta­tion.

He cited the in­flu­ence of con­ser­va­tive ra­dio talk-show host Rush Lim­baugh and Fox News Chan­nel po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors Sean Han­nity and Bill O’Reilly, who had crit­i­cized Mr. Churchill in the years be­fore he was fired. He also noted that then-Colorado Gov. Bill Owens pub­licly called on Mr. Churchill to re­sign.

“It is a First Amend­ment vi­o­la­tion to de­stroy this man and dis­rupt his rep­u­ta­tion,” said Mr. Lane. “He’s not a fraud, and he didn’t pla­gia­rize.”

Den­ver District Court Chief Judge Larry Naves presided over open­ing ar­gu­ments March 10 in the wrong­ful-dis­missal trial, which could last as long as three weeks. A jury of four men and four women was seated one day ear­lier.

At­tor­neys for the uni­ver­sity ar- gued that Mr. Churchill was fired solely on the ba­sis of his aca­demic mis­con­duct. Ques­tions about the in­tegrity of Mr. Churchill’s writ­ing and re­search had swirled for years be­fore a uni­ver­sity panel launched its in­ves­ti­ga­tion in 2005.

Lawyer Pa­trick O’Rourke said he would pro­vide eight sep­a­rate ex­am­ples of what he said was Mr. Churchill’s re­search dis­hon­esty, in­clud­ing in­vent­ing facts to sup­port his con­clu­sions and pla­gia­riz­ing the work of other aca­demics.

“Pro­fes­sor Churchill did things an eighth-grader knows are wrong,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “You don’t copy some­body else’s work.”

Mr. Churchill, 61, was fired by the Uni­ver­sity of Colorado Board of Re­gents in 2007 af­ter a two-year in­ves­ti­ga­tion found him guilty of pla­gia­rism, fab­ri­cat­ing re­search and mis­rep­re­sent­ing the work of oth­ers.

Mr. Churchill has ac­cused the uni­ver­sity of fish­ing for ex­cuses to dis­miss him af­ter a na­tional out­cry over his writ­ing. The con­tro­versy cen­tered on his 2001 es­say, “Some Peo­ple Push Back: On the Jus­tice of Roost­ing Chick­ens,” in which he called vic­tims of the Sept. 11 ter­ror­ist at­tack “lit­tle Eich­manns,” re­fer­ring to Nazi bu­reau­crat Adolf Eich­mann.

Pub­lic­ity sur­round­ing the es­say trans­formed Mr. Churchill from an ob­scure pro­fes­sor to a na­tional sym­bol of rad­i­cal academia. At that point, said Mr. Lane, thenUniver­sity of Colorado Pres­i­dent Hank Brown told the Board of Re­gents that he would find a rea­son to dis­miss Mr. Churchill.

“[Mr. Brown said,] ‘Re­gents, I’m giv­ing you my as­sur­ances, I am go­ing to in­ves­ti­gate ab­so­lutely ev­ery sin­gle word this man has ever writ­ten, this man has ever spo­ken, any tape-record­ings I can find about him,’” said Mr. Lane. “I am go­ing to look at his con­duct, and I am go­ing to find you cause for dis­missal.’ “

At the time, Mr. Churchill was a tenured pro­fes­sor of eth­nic stud- ies and for­mer head of the Uni­ver­sity of Colorado at Boul­der’s eth­nic stud­ies depart­ment. He had pub­lished ex­ten­sively on top­ics re­lated pri­mar­ily to In­dian his­tory and was ac­tive in the Amer­i­can In­dian Move­ment.

Mr. Owens and Mr. Brown, a for­mer se­na­tor from Colorado, are ex­pected to be called as wit­nesses dur­ing the trial.

“The mob took over at the Uni­ver­sity of Colorado,” said Mr. Lane.

Mr. Churchill is seek­ing to be re­in­stated at the uni­ver­sity and fi­nan­cially com­pen­sated for his losses.

Two weeks ago, for­mer Weather Un­der­ground mem­ber Bill Ay­ers ap­peared at a cam­pus rally on be­half of Mr. Churchill, call­ing him the vic­tim of a “witch hunt.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ward Churchill

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