Monday, July 30, 2007

Prof. makes Capone analogy

John M. Ellis in Minding the Campus says: "Two cheers for Ward Churchill's dismissal":
Al Capone may have been jailed for tax evasion when his far more serious offense was racketeering, but he was certainly guilty as charged, and so is Ward Churchill. Yet in both cases the limited grounds [on which he was fired] had the effect of removing one man from the scene while leaving a larger systemic problem untouched. . . .

An individual was removed, but the larger problems of which he was a symptom remained. A department that thought this an acceptable standard for the professoriate will not be placed in receivership, a dean that let it happen on his watch will not be fired for dereliction of duty, a provost who did not ensure that he had appointed deans of adequate backbone will not be replaced, and so on up the line. The whole corrupted system will be left in place - just as it was when Al Capone's empire survived his jailing on a peripheral charge. That is why we can offer only two cheers for a dismissal that would have been fully justified on other and far more important grounds, grounds which would have amounted to an admission that Churchill was part of an infinitely larger and more serious problem than plagiarism. The university was lucky to be able to solve a problem it could not avoid (Churchill's presence on campus) without touching the wider one; the public was not so lucky.
Columnist makes Capone analogy! Gregory Rodriguez in the LA Times:

The University of Colorado's trial and punishment of Churchill, in other words, was a little like the federal government prosecuting Al Capone for tax evasion and then calling its pursuit of gangsters complete. . . .

[T]he problem on campuses isn't rigorous Marxist materialists, as conservative stereotypes would have you believe [sic], but craven emotional warriors in the arena of identity politics.

Ethnic studies departments, such as Churchill's, may be the worst offenders. Created in the wake of the ethnic pride movement in the early 1970s, many simply never had the same kind of academic oversight as more established and prestigious
fields. . . . They earned their "psychic income" -- a phrase coined by former Gov. Jerry Brown -- trying to turn minority undergraduates into activists. (Meanwhile, the quality work on ethnicity was being done in more traditional disciplines.)

Update: PB notes that HE made the Capone analogy way back in June, 2005.

Update II: El President on the aboliton of tenure, Ward Churchill edition.

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