Tuesday, August 23, 2005

AAUP head Roger Bowen: Clueless about Ward Churchill

The Rocky this afternoon: "Expert: High standard for CU in Churchill case."

An expert on academic freedom said today the University of Colorado should be held to a high standard of proof if it tries to punish an embattled professor on allegations of plagiarism.

A faculty committee is investigating research misconduct charges against Ward Churchill, a tenured professor of ethnic studies who first came under fire for likening Sept. 11 victims to an infamous Nazi. . . .

The burden of proof should be a very high standard," said Jonathan Knight, director of academic freedom and tenure programs for the American Association of University Professors.

Knight said his group does not track the number of plagiarism investigations on college campuses, partly because many remain confidential. But he said Churchill's case is unusual in the amount of national attention it has attracted.

"I hope the burden (of proof) is as I have described it, and is not influenced in one way or another by any surrounding events," he said. . . .

Fine, fine. Measured words. But here's the General Secretary of the AAUP (probably not a very good title for the head of an organization like this, huh?), Roger Bowen, on the Churchill case:

The slope is very slippery. Little Eichmanns is indeed offensive to most people's moral sensibilities and Churchill may have been suffering a moral lapse when he wrote those words; or, more seriously, he betrayed his ignorance of history. But the statement itself should not result in an investigation or a termination. Academic freedom also protects his other writings, one of which is a thoughtful attack on "holocaust deniers." Maurice Isserman's recent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education asks whether Malcolm X--who uttered words as offensive and advocated violence--something Churchill has not done--would be allowed to speak at Hamilton College today. I encourage readers to look at this essay. (From an interview in the Spring 2005 Illinois Academe, "the official newspaper of the AAUP-Il.")

Did you catch that? Bowen says flatly that Churchill has never advocated violence. I'll just link to the man's greatest hit to get you started, but Churchill cognescenti know that he almost always advocates violence; he just fakes being sneaky about it.

More, when Bowen mentions Churchill's "thoughtful attack on 'holocaust deniers,'" he can only mean the article that should be on every Chutchophile's top ten list: "An American Holocaust? The Structure of Denial."

Brief by Churchillian standards (five pages, only 178 footnotes!), it's notable for (a) Churchill's immortal words, "I don't want to be accused of leftwing bias here, especially since I am not by any stretch of the imagination a leftist"; (b) his accusation that his CU colleague, the historian Patricia Nelson Limerick, wrote "a new, revised and very popular 'history of the West' that avoids all references to such uncomfortable events as major massacres"; (c) Churchill's novel theory that Deborah Lipstadt and other historians of the Holocaust ("jewish exclusivists") are committing war crimes:

Denial of genocide, insofar as it plainly facilitates continuation of the crime, amounts to complicity in it. This is true whether the deniers are neo-Nazis, Jewish exclusivists, renowned international jurists or provincial Canadian judges. Complicity in genocide is, under Article III of the 1948 Convention, tantamount to perpetration of genocide itself.

So Bowen is clearly an idiot, and the Rocky's "expert on academic freedom" is the idiot's "director of academic freedom and tenure programs." Not good.

Update: Via View from a Height, it looks like Patricia Nelson Limerick didn't sign the petition signed by 199 other CU professors.

Update II: Here's the URL for the Illinois Academe interview with Roger Bowen. You have to cut and paste because this infrequently published "newspaper," curiously, prohibits linking to or copying from its site:


Update III: John, John, John: Pirate Ballerina says in an e-mail that the Rocky story seems to have been snatched off the website. My search didn't turn it up either, and the above link is already dead, much more quickly than usual. Rocky editor John Temple's greasy fingerprints are all over this one; after all, it wouldn't be the first time he's disappeared a piece. Can anybody besides the Rocky's librarian come up with it?

Update IV: Just left a note on John Temple's "blog" asking him to please get the librarian to find the article. His site is so screwy I put the note in the comments on his stupendous announcement that he now has an RSS feed.

Update V: From Pirate Ballerina: "RMN reporter Kevin Flynn tells us the 'high standard' story missing from the RMN website was an Associated Press story, and that it was removed due to errors apparently unrelated to the AAUP quotes. You can still read the AP story over at the Summit Daily News (registration required)." (Later: Here's what Flynn says: "re: the link to “Expert: High Standards…” that was on the RMN website yesterday. It was an AP story posted only on the web in the afternoon and not published in the paper. It had some errors that were also in the Post piece­mainly [sic] that the remaining 7 complaints are all plagiarism. They are not.")

Now it may be true that "errors apparently unrelated to the AAUP quotes" caused the story's removal (though the Daily News story seems identical to the one the Rocky ran) (Later: it isn't; the "7 complaints" stuff has been removed). Still, why was there no notice in the News that the story was pulled? And what were the errors that made it necessary to do so? Very weird. (Later: Okay, as you can see Flynn specified what at least one of the "errors" was. Still, it's time the Rocky learned that you can't just pull stories with no explanation. Think I'll lie down for a decade or two.)

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