Thursday, June 01, 2006

Could Churchill win in court?

Mark Wolf of the Rocky Mountain News' main blog (?), Rockytalk, posted last week on CU's legal costs for the Churchill investigation. Nothing new or even interesting, but it sparked some fascinating comments. Read the whole thread, but here's a "MisterN" on where things stand after the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct's report:

CU needs to get a handle on a number of legal problems before they take action against Churchill. Here are the top 4: (not an exhaustive list)

1) CU needs the authors to come forward and say their work was plagurized [sic]. Right now there are no authors willing to stand up and speak. That won't play well in court.

2) CU needs to get their procedural process in line, especially when it comes to the right to privacy in a personel matter. Trying to blame Churchill because he makes public responses to CU's public releases doesn't cut it. Churchill has the absolute right to speak out, and CU cannot. It IS a double standard, but it is a very legally binding double standard the CU needs to abide by. Procedural problems can flush the whole case down the toilet, even if they prove everything else.

3) CU needs to show exactly what standards have been violated. The committee's report spends too much time trying to prove that the committee knows everything, and that they alone can determine historical truth. They should have been quoting AHA standards and explaining how they applied to Ward Churchill's work.

4) CU needs to show that all of this had absolutely nothing to do with Churchill's Nazi quote. That is going to be a tough one. Especially when every single news story about Churchill starts off by reminding everyone that he compared 911 victims to a Nazi. It is very clear that none of this attention would exist without the Nazi quotes. Can CU prove that the inquiry would exist without the attention brought about by the Nazi quotes?

CU seriously needs to buckle down and get to work instead of just singing to the choir of Churchill-haters. Posted by MisterN on May 26, 2006 12:31 PM.
MisterN's points are seriously worrisome, ain't they? I can't seem to find it, but didn't some CU gink say the school could investigate an employee's scholarship basically for any or no reason at all? Mightn't a court think this somewhat high-handed, not to say untrue? Hell if I know.

A guy signing himself as "Laughing" (what's so funny, bub?) is more hopeful:

Some good points MisterN.

As for those coming forward to be interviewed about being plagiaried, I'd say they probably already have to an extent.

You can bet at the very least, they've been contacted by the committee, and they've probably all been advised by their own attorneys to keep mum until they've been either legally deposed by either side or they testify - which is a good thing at this point.

As for separating the "Nazi comments" from the core issue, I don't believe that's been a problem. Frankly, most people with a functioning brains stem admit that Churchill has a right to speak his opinion and that his 1st amendment rights have not been violated.

That's a hard point to swallow for these defenders and apologists who are desperately trying to link the core issues to "Free Speech" and who probaly still think Clinton was impeached and disbarred for "having sex"..

I agree with your points 2 and 3. However, knowing that a lawsuit is on the horizon, I'm sure that CU is getting their ducks in order - if they already haven't. The report is more or less a preliminary - which at this point is nothing more than a recap of their investigation. The nuts & bolts will come later. . . .

It will be interesting. Posted by Laughing on May 26, 2006 12:32 PM

MisterN replies:

Dear "laughing",

You are right, the committee already contacted the authors of the works Churchill is accused of having plagiarized. But they all refused to testify either in person or in writing. I'm not sure why that happened. If someone stole my work and I had a chance to get them fired, I would be on the next plane in an instant. These authors should have been the ones filing the complaints, not CU's administration.

You may be right that they lawyered up because they knew the committee results would be made public.

If that is true, then CU has an even bigger problem. This would be an example of procedural violation having a material impact upon the committee's work. The legal arguement would be that the authors didn't testify because the process wasn't kept private as the rules state it should have been. CU's procedural violation opens the door for Ward Churchill to claim the whole process was poisoned due to the violation, and that he didn't get a fair hearing.

Having witnesses not testify due to the threat of public exposure in what is supposed to be a private personel [sic] issue is a major problem for CU.

The reason for keeping the process private is to allow for both sides to present witnesses and evidence in a free and open mannor so the truth can be attained. The committee itself made reference to this when they decided they would keep their votes for punishments anoymous so they wouldn't be influenced by outside influences. The whole process should have been kept anonymous for the same reason.

This committee's report WAS CU's chance to get their ducks in a row. They need to get to work, and get creative on trying to fix this one.Posted by Mister N on May 26, 2006 12:33 PM.

In another comment the thoughtful MisterN revives the horrifying specter many Churchill-phobes had quit fearing long ago--a buyout:
[A] buyout is the only solution that makes sure there is no chance Ward Churchill never teaches another class at CU again. All other options (2-5 year suspensions, or going through a court fight over a dismissal) leave the chance that Ward Churchill will teach at CU again. Maybe as soon as next spring.

Benefits of a buyout:

1) The buyout will be the least expensive solution.

2) It can be implimented [sic]immediately.

3) No court cases.

4) Zero risk that Churchill teaches at CU again.

5) It pulls the media rug out from under Ward Churchill. He won't be able to attract media attention and use it as a plaftorm for his views anymore.

6) Ward Churchill doesn't get to continue to collect paychecks while the process drags on and on.

7) All the procedural mistakes CU has made in this process get swept under the rug. The only argument I've heard against it is that it doesn't "punish" Churchill enough. That doesn't balance out the benefits in my opinion. There is a time and place for idealism, and then it comes time to get the job done. A buyout gets the job done. Posted by MisterN on May 27, 2006 11:16 PM.
All speculation, of course, but does anyone still trust that in any given situation CU will take the moral rather than the expedient course?

Update: No.

Update II: Beautiful mutants wandering over from Pirate Ballerina! Any informed--oh, who am I kidding--uninformed (update: now I'll settle for insane) opinions about possible cracks in the Churchill case?

Update III: Thank you for supporting the Arts.

Update IV: Not a single comment yet (6:06 pm). Not even from Snapple, who's so Churchill-obsessed he posted a (lousy) takeoff called "Chutch at the Bat" in comments to a (dumb) post of mine on the National League West. I made a rookie mistake here (and I ain't no rookie): Never, ever ask people to comment. They will bury you--in silence.

Update V: The Drunkawife points out an appropriate song (via the National Institutes of Everything).

Update VI: Here are some children eerily chanting the words to Nobody Likes Me.

Update VII: JWPaine points out that hitting the link under "beautiful mutants" takes you to a forbidden page. It was just an ad for an exhibit of Mark Mothersbaugh's weird art. Here's an example that explains why I naturally made the connection with Mothersbaugh when I thought of Pirate Ballerina readers (yes, including me).

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