Thursday, May 31, 2007

Factory town

The Post's conservative curmudgeon emeritus, Al Knight, notes the extraordinary length of the process of firing Ward Churchill:

[CU president Hank] Brown's decision, which is contained in a thoughtful, 10-page letter, could stand alone as the historical record of this sorry chapter in CU history. In it, he outlines the incredibly complex process that has been used during the last two years to get the university to the point where it is able to reach a conclusion.

It is easily possible to imagine, say, the closing of a large factory and the displacement of its entire work force that would consume less time and paperwork. . . .

[Churchill's] attorney, David Lane, says the university's actions over the last two years are nothing more than a "rubber stamp" by an organization that wants to fire Ward Churchill. On the contrary, the university has given Churchill every opportunity to defend himself against the allegations of academic misconduct. In addition, everyone - other than Churchill and Lane - has had to put up with the prolonged process imposed by university rules with no assurance that it would lead to the current result. To be told now that this long delay, which was necessary to protect Churchill's rights, was meaningless, foreordained and unworthy of respect is outrageous.

Lane continues to insist that any decision to fire Churchill will be taken to court. So what? The university would lose all credibility if it decided to forgive Churchill's conduct simply because he remains unrepentant and is represented by an aggressive lawyer.

Brown's letter puts this matter in the proper context when he cites the three reasons why Churchill must be dismissed. One of those, on the interests of the entire state, deserves to be quoted in full:

"Professor Churchill's misconduct impacts the University's academic reputation and the reputation of its faculty. The integrity of the work of the faculty is central to the University's academic mission. And, as a publicly supported institution, the public must be able to trust that the University's resources will be dedicated to academic endeavors carried out according to the highest possible standards. Professor Churchill's conduct, if allowed to stand, would erode the university's integrity and public trust."

It is inconceivable that the Board of Regents would disagree. All that remains is the inevitable filing of the lawsuit. In the meantime, the university can reclaim its reputation.

Good luck with that.

Update: The Daily Gamera has an on-the-one-hand-this editorial that adds--not much, but comes down (I think) against Churchill (via PB):

Like many debates, the political dispute about Churchill centers on a few info-McNuggets but spins far beyond the realm of verifiable truth. Some conservatives see Churchill as emblematic of rampant left-wing orthodoxy in academe. Some leftists, meanwhile, spin the entire affair into a vast, right-wing conspiracy to silence those who "speak truth to power."

The heart of the issue, however, is academic. Its resolution should be empirical. Did Churchill, in 15 specific instances, commit research misconduct? As Brown notes, more than 25 professors who have formally investigated the allegations against Churchill and conducted hearings on the matter unanimously agree on two things:

First, that Churchill engaged in intentional and repeated research misconduct. Second, that the misconduct requires a severe sanction. People of good will can and do disagree on the appropriate response. The conspiracy theorists of both extremes only muddy the discourse and confuse the populace. It is sad and unfortunate that many will not rigorously address the underlying issue, which is one professor's academic deceit.

Update II: Since PB is having such fun posting comments from the Inside Higher Ed piece on Ward, here's one from "Buckster" on the Camera piece:

Churchhill [sic] was a cool professor when I had him. It was never problem to miss his class and I got a great grade. His sunglasses were cool.

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