The Ward Churchill Verdict

Faculty panel in Colorado finds multiple instances of "deliberate" misconduct, including falsification and plagiarism, but professors split on whether he should be fired.
May 16, 2006

Ward Churchill committed multiple, "deliberate" acts of academic misconduct, according to a review by a faculty panel, released today by the University of Colorado at Boulder.

While the panel was unanimous in its findings about Churchill's conduct, it was divided about whether he should lose his tenured position as professor -- as politicians and many others have been demanding for more than a year. Three of the panel's five members believe that the violations of academic standards are severe enough to make dismissal "not an inappropriate sanction." But only one of those three members believes that dismissal is the "most appropriate sanction." Two others favor suspension without pay for five years.

Two other members of the panel said that they did not believe that the violations were serious enough to merit dismissal. They recommend a suspension of two years without pay and say that they fear dismissal would "have an adverse effect on other scholars' ability to conduct their research with due freedom."

Among the violations that the committee found Churchill had committed were falsification, fabrication, plagiarism, failure to comply with established standard regarding author names on publications, and a "serious deviation from accepted practices in reporting results from research." The committee also found that Churchill "was disrespectful of Indian oral traditions" in his writings about an 1837 smallpox epidemic.

Colorado administrators will now review the faculty panel's reports and any response from Churchill before making a final decision. Churchill and his lawyers have repeatedly threatened to sue if he is fired.

The committee was created last year, after Churchill's comments shortly after 9/11, in which he compared victims in the World Trade Center to "little Eichmanns," set off a nationwide furor. A Colorado panel concluded last year that however offensive those remarks may have been, they were protected speech. The panel that reported today investigated research misconduct charges that surfaced after the 9/11 comments made Churchill so widely known. Churchill has consistently denied wrongdoing, and said that the committee's work is tainted because it was created by those determined to see him lose his position because of his outspoken views.

The faculty panel acknowledged that the allegations it examined surfaced "in the wake of the public outcry concerning some highly controversial essays by Professor Churchill" and said that committee members believed that Churchill's "right to publish his views was protected by both the First and Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of free speech." The essays "played no part" in the panel's work, the committee said, adding that it wanted to "express its concern regarding the timing and perhaps the motives for the university's decision to forward charges made in that context."

Some critics of the university from the right have said that Churchill never should have been hired and some critics from the left have noted that Churchill never attempted to hide the views that eventually led to so much scrutiny. The committee, in a nod to both sets of critics, wrote: "We point out finally that when Professor Churchill was hired as an associate professor with tenure in 1991 and promoted to (full) professor in 1997, the university knew that he did not have a Ph.D. or law degree, as commonly expected for faculty at this institution, and was aware that he was a controversial public intellectual."

Churchill has not commented on the report yet -- he received it this morning.

Prior to last year's uproar, Churchill was a regular on the college lecture circuit, frequently talking about and encouraging Native American activism. His writings on 9/11 became more broadly known when he was invited to speak at Hamilton College and some faculty members there circulated his writings. From that point on he became -- to the distress of many in academe -- one of the best known professors in the United States.

A full article about the report and reaction to it will appear on this site tomorrow.


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