Friday, July 03, 2015

Trial of Roosting Eichmanns

The Andrea Smith kao magahet na natibu pat kao mama'natitibu gui', issue has been appearing all over my Facebook lately. I may or may not share much of my thoughts on the issue, but it was interesting how much the issue of Andrea Smith reminded me of Ward Churchill. Both are scholars that have had a huge impact on the representations of Native Americans in scholarly terms. Both of them have have been significant voices that have helped in some ways "mainstream" native American issues or voices. But both are figures who have been challenged in terms of their authenticity. In both cases the issue persists of how questions over their native identity will affect their theories, their legacies and so on.

I've included below a series of articles on Ward Churchill's case when he was fired from the University of Colorado. His "Indianness" in terms of his authenticity as a Native American wasn't so much questioned when he came under fire, as the non-native world was much more interested in defaming and maligning him for his 9/11 comments. I have another post in mind for that debacle. The way in which people became so furious over his comments about "little Eichmanns" is a similar pointless interpassive dynamic as to those who obsess over mentions of race in order to prevent any discussion about race from taking place. To fixate on the one who bears the truth in order to prevent the truth from being spoken of, heard or contended with.

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Jury says professor was wrongly fired
Published: April 2, 2009 
NT
 
DENVER — A jury found on Thursday that the University of Colorado had wrongfully dismissed a professor who drew national attention for an essay in which he called some victims of the Sept. 11 attacks “little Eichmanns.”
But the jury, which deliberated for a day and a half, awarded only $1 in damages to the former professor, Ward L. Churchill, a tenured faculty member at the university’s campus in Boulder since 1991 who was chairman of the ethnic studies department.

The jurors found that Mr. Churchill’s political views had been a “substantial or motivating” factor in his dismissal, and that the university had not shown that he would have been dismissed anyway.
“This is a great victory for the First Amendment, and for academic freedom,” said his lawyer, David A. Lane.

Whether Mr. Churchill, 61, will get his job back, and when, was not resolved. Mr. Churchill’s lawyers said they would ask Judge Larry J. Naves of Denver District Court to order reinstatement, in light of the verdict.

A spokesman for the university, Ken McConnellogue, said administrators would oppose the request. Reinstatement, Mr. McConnellogue said, would probably draw a sharp reaction among many faculty members, because a faculty committee was instrumental in his firing.

The verdict by the panel of four women and two men — none of whom wished to be interviewed by reporters, court officials said — seemed unlikely to resolve the larger debate surrounding Mr. Churchill that was engendered by the case. Is Mr. Churchill, as his supporters contend, a torchbearer for the right to hold unpopular political views? Or is he unpatriotic or — as his harshest critics contend — an outright collaborator with the nation’s enemies at a time of war?

The jury seemed at least partly undecided on what to think about the man at the center of the fight, whose essay made him a polarizing national figure.

While the panel agreed with the argument that an environment of political intolerance for Mr. Churchill’s views was a factor in his firing, Mr. McConnellogue, the university spokesman, contended that its decision to deny him financial damages also sent a message — that Mr. Churchill was not necessarily a figure to be revered, either.

“The jury’s award is some vindication,” he said.

Mr. Churchill, wearing sunglasses in the hallway outside the courtroom, said the size of the award did not matter. “I didn’t ask for money,” he said, “I asked for justice.”

The case has been seen as a struggle between freedom of speech and academic integrity, and it revived the longstanding debate about whether hate speech deserves protection by the First Amendment.

But the monthlong trial mostly focused on Mr. Churchill’s academic work. The jury had to decide whether he had plagiarized and falsified parts of his research, particularly on American Indians, as the university contended in dismissing him. His lawyers described the search for professional misconduct as simply a pretext for a foregone decision to get rid of him.

On Sept. 12, 2001, Mr. Churchill wrote an essay in which he argued that the United States had brought the terrorist attacks on itself. He said that some of those working in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 were not innocent bystanders but “formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire.” He described the financial workers as “little Eichmanns,” a reference to Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi who has been called the architect of the Holocaust.

The essay garnered little notice at the time but gradually seeped through the Internet, coming to light in 2005, and then creating an uproar.

In their closing arguments on Wednesday, lawyers for each side urged the jury to focus on the First Amendment.

Mr. Lane, Mr. Churchill’s lawyer, said his client had been a spokesman throughout his academic career for disempowered people and causes — a trait, Mr. Lane said, that never made Mr. Churchill popular with people in power. “For 30 years, he’s been telling the other side of the story,” Mr. Lane said.

What the university did in firing Mr. Churchill, he told the panel, was political payback, a rigged inquiry into his work that was a “charade of fairness.”

The university’s lawyer, Patrick O’Rourke, asked the jury to think about standards. The pattern of academic misconduct, Mr. O’Rourke said, was not in doubt.

“There’s the real university world, and there’s Ward Churchill’s world,” he said. “Ward Churchill’s world is a place where there are no standards and no accountability.”

Mr. Churchill, he said, was using the Constitution as a smokescreen. “You can’t take the First Amendment and use it to justify fraud,” he said.

Around 3 p.m. on Thursday, jurors asked the judge questions about damages.

First, they asked whether it was possible to award no damages. A few minutes later, they asked whether, if all but one jury member could agree on a dollar amount, that person could be replaced by another juror. (The answer was no.)

The jury then resumed deliberations for about an hour before returning its verdict in Mr. Churchill’s favor.

Kirk Johnson reported from Denver, and Katharine Q. Seelye from New York.

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Published: March 21, 2009 
NYT
 
DENVER — A wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a former professor against the University of Colorado has been unfolding in exciting fashion in a courtroom here.

The professor, Ward L. Churchill, was dismissed by the university in July 2007 on grounds that he plagiarized and falsified parts of his research on Native Americans. But Mr. Churchill contends that he was fired in retaliation for an essay in which he described office workers killed in the World Trade Center attacks as “little Eichmanns.”

Mr. Churchill, seeking to be reinstated to his tenured position, is expected to testify on Monday.
The civil trial, which has finished its second week in district court, has been as combative and colorful as Mr. Churchill.

His lawyer, David Lane, has sought to portray him as the victim of a “howling mob” of university administrators, conservative media and politicians who were “falling over themselves” to have him fired.

But Patrick O’Rourke, a lawyer for the university, said in his opening statement, “Ward Churchill was fired for one reason and one reason only: he engaged in the worst kind of academic fraud that you can.”

Much of the testimony has focused on Mr. Churchill’s extensive scholarship, including his theory that Capt. John Smith purposefully introduced smallpox among the Wampanoag Indians in the 17th century.

It was after the outrage over Mr. Churchill’s “Eichmann” essay that other scholars came forward with claims of plagiarism. In May 2006, a faculty committee found that his academic work was seriously flawed. The committee further concluded that he had no factual basis for his smallpox theory.
Marianne Wesson, a University of Colorado law professor who led the committee, testified last week that Mr. Churchill had, in some of his work, cited writings of other scholars that he had actually ghostwritten, creating the illusion that there was a body of work supporting his theories.

Mr. Lane accused Ms. Wesson of bias, pointing to e-mail messages she wrote comparing backers of Mr. Churchill to the public support for O. J. Simpson, Bill Clinton and Michael Jackson.
“I really don’t doubt that Professor Churchill was, to many students, a very inspiring teacher,” Ms. Wesson testified. “I think he is a tragic figure, and it makes me sad that so much talent, so much promise has been wasted.” 

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Published: March 24, 2009 
NYT
 
DENVER — A former University of Colorado professor spent nearly six hours defending his scholarly work on Tuesday during cross-examination in his lawsuit contending that he was fired for an essay he wrote about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

After spending much of Monday explaining his political opinions, the former professor, Ward L. Churchill, faced extensive cross-examination by the university’s lawyer, Patrick O’Rourke.

A faculty committee concluded that Mr. Churchill had plagiarized and fabricated sections of his work on the persecution of American Indians, leading to his dismissal in July 2007, the university says.
But Mr. Churchill maintains that he was forced out because of the controversial essay, in which he characterized workers in the World Trade Center as “little Eichmanns.”

In a back-and-forth that was intermittently cutting and congenial, Mr. O’Rourke delved into the details of Mr. Churchill’s work, much of which focused on the spread of smallpox among Americans Indians and assorted aspects of law affecting Indian country.

Mr. O’Rourke said Mr. Churchill’s admission that he had ghostwritten works for other scholars and occasionally cited them to support his own theories clearly violated academic standards, as the faculty committee had concluded.

“The only evidence we’ve heard from anyone other than you about this scholarly practice is from 20 people tenured at C.U., all of whom say this is wrong,” Mr. O’Rourke said.

Mr. Churchill said the practice violated no academic standard at the university. And he argued that it was acceptable for one scholar to ghostwrite for another and then cite that work in other writings as long as the second scholar embraced the original premise.

Mr. O’Rourke acknowledged that the university and Mr. Churchill had drawn extensive criticism over the essay, with Mr. Churchill facing “half a million” accusations and the university under enormous pressure to discipline him.

But even after firing Mr. Churchill, the university allowed him to continue lecturing when invited by students — proof, Mr. O’Rourke said, that his dismissal had nothing to do with limiting his First Amendment rights to free speech.

“The same university that fired you for speaking out is the same university that let you come back and talk on any subject that you wanted, whenever you were asked to,” Mr. O’Rourke said.

Mr. Churchill responded, “I don’t see how the point you’re making actually changes the situation at all.”

Mr. Churchill conceded that parts of an essay written by Prof. Fay G. Cohen of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia on Indian fishing rights appeared without permission in a book he helped edit and write. But Mr. Churchill denied that he was responsible for lifting any part of the essay, which he had worked on with Ms. Cohen.

When asked by his lawyer, David Lane, what he hoped to gain from his lawsuit, Mr. Churchill said: “I want my job back. I want the university to acknowledge that the entire process by which I was terminated from the university was fraudulent.”

Throughout the day, Mr. Churchill argued that he had done nothing wrong and that he had been railroaded by the university.

Mr. O’Rourke questioned that premise. “All of these fully tenured faculty members went along with a fraudulent and fictional report just to get you out of the university?” he asked.

Mr. Churchill said he believed that outside influences had helped seal his fate. “It’s just wrong,” he said.

Mr. O’Rourke responded, “It’s just wrong to put somebody else’s name on your work and then to cite it.”

After Mr. Churchill’s testimony, a juror submitted a question, asking him if the accusations of academic misconduct would have arisen had it not been for his essay.

“I think the easy answer on that one is no, they would not,” Mr. Churchill replied.

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 Fired Colorado professor Ward Churchill loses high court appeal
By Anthony Cotton

According to the Boulder Daily Camera, Churchill sold his home in Boulder last month. Lane told the Camera that Churchill now lives in Atlanta, where he continues to write and lecture.Former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, rebuffed by the state Supreme Court on Monday, said he plans to appeal his firing by the school to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"We'll see if the U.S. Supreme Court is inclined to do any better," Churchill wrote in an e-mail to The Denver Post, shortly after the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed two lower-court rulings saying Churchill was not entitled to reinstatement or back pay.

Churchill, fired in 2007 from his position in CU's ethnic-studies department after charges of plagiarism and academic misconduct, filed a civil lawsuit against the school for wrongful termination. He won the suit, with a jury saying his rights to free speech under the First Amendment were violated by the school. Churchill was awarded $1 by a jury, but the District Court judge declined to reinstate him.

In 2010, the State Court of Appeals upheld the judge's decision not to give Churchill his job back. He appealed to the state Supreme Court, which issued a 55-page opinion.

Although a university spokesman said that "everyone in the community is ready to move forward and put this matter in the rearview mirror," Churchill said he will continue to fight.

"The number of factual misrepresentations contained in the opinion is exceeded only by the number of times the law is twisted to fit the court's preferred conclusions," he wrote.

Churchill's attorney, David Lane, said his client has 90 days to file a petition for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

Churchill came under fire for an essay he wrote that likened some victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to a World War II Nazi official. CU investigated whether his essay was protected under the First Amendment and found that it was. But during the investigation, academics came forward and accused Churchill of plagiarism and fraud in scholarly writings, which led to his termination.

Monday's ruling, affirming the two earlier court decisions, was "disturbing," Lane said.
"This is a dangerous precedent to all free society," he said. "There's never been a dispute that his First Amendment rights were violated, but what they said was that the regents can't be sued. I guess that gives them the green light to violate the Constitution any time they see fit."

In his ruling, District Court Judge Larry Naves said the Board of Regents acted as a "quasi-judicial" panel, which gave it immunity from Churchill's lawsuit.

CU-Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano issued a statement saying the state Supreme Court's decision "upholds the high standards of academic integrity practiced every day by our faculty, and helps us to ensure the quality of instruction for all our students."

"It is vital that what is published and what is taught in the classroom be based on research and scholarship grounded in honest, accepted and time-tested methods," DiStefano said. "This was always what was at stake in this case for the university, and the winners today are our faculty and students."

Anthony Cotton: 303-954-1292, acotton@denverpost.com or twitter.com/anthonycottondp


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