A University of Nebraska professor has resigned from the committee investigating research misconduct allegations against University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill after questions were raised about his objectivity.
"Basically, I believe that the committee will not be able to concentrate on its necessary business as long as attacks on me are providing a distraction," professor Bruce Johansen wrote in an e-mail Wednesday to the Rocky Mountain News.
Johansen, who teaches Native American studies in Omaha, was one of five people appointed to the panel looking into Churchill's academic record. His objectivity came under fire from Jim Paine, a Colorado resident who hosts a Web site called PirateBallerina.com.
Paine called attention to a positive blurb that Churchill had written for a book Johansen had edited, called Enduring Legacies.
The Web site also posted commentary from Johansen in which he defended Churchill's controversial essay on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by noting that critics had concentrated on a small fraction of Churchill's work.
Johansen previously defended his ability to objectively evaluate Churchill's work. He reiterated that point in an op-ed piece he submitted to the News. "I am not a member of the Churchill 'fan club.' Nor am I his 'stooge,' he wrote.
But he notified CU law professor Mimi Wesson on Monday that he was stepping down from the panel.
Well, well, well. Of course, Johansen couldn't quit without sounding a typically gracious note:
"I am leaving the committee that will investigate alleged research misconduct against Churchill because the level of discourse on this issue in the Denver area has become nearly hysterical, and because my continued membership on this committee in such a toxic atmosphere is going to inhibit its ability to do necessary work, no matter how impartial I may be.
"The fact is that various Web site authors, editorial page writers and radio talk-show hosts who have been very vividly anti-Churchill for months are now giving me lectures on impartiality. The ironies of this situation bring to mind George Orwell, Joseph McCarthy and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth."
I also am leaving because the rules of the committee prohibit apparent or perceived conflict of interest. Thus, by this test, imagination trumps reality."