American Association of University Professors president Cary Nelson discusses the Ward Churchill case, among other subjects, in a podcast (the discussion of Churchill begins just over a third of the way in) marking the start of the AAUP's annual meeting today.
First saying that he's speaking "personally" and "not primarily as president of the AAUP," Nelson brings up the "fruit of the poisoned tree" argument. He makes the point that the first committee "expressed concern" over how the case got its start. That "anxiety," he says, is inescapably "part of the official discourse" of the case now (but so, of course, is the subsequent discussion and dismissal of that anxiety. Nelson doesn't mention that.)
He moves on to the old Tom Mayer et. al argument of the "limited number of paragraphs" of Ward's work the committee analyzed. "How representative are those patches that were focused on? Are they characterizations of his work as a whole . . . ?" etc. Those questions are "as yet unanswered."
Ritual obeisance: "Ward Churchill has many detractors and I would not count myself amongst the supporters of his observations about September 11th if there are any . . ." [sic]
"Some of his writing about Native American history has
advocates . . . . I know people who assign his books in classes and who feel that the highly polemical nature" makes for great class discussion. "I know people who assign his books because they disagree with him."
"This is one of those cases where substance and due process tend potentially to be woven together in a complex way."
Listen to the whole thing, which is pretty funny, especially Nelson's dream of a "campaign," including television commercials, to draw attention to the issues of academic freedom and how the campaign might be "packaged" for the "Normal, Illinois, rotary club."
(via Inside Higher Edumacation, which also has the amusing article, "An AAUP Manifesto."
Update: the well-known headline in the Bloomington Daily Pantagraph: "Normal man marries Oblong woman." (Oblong is, or was, a little town near Normal.)
*Title refers to what Nelson says the AAUP is in with Ward.