Thursday, March 12, 2009

Trial highlights (for children!)

Got in a little late to the Churchill trial this morning, while Chutch attorney David Lane was questioning Deward Walker, an associate professor of anthropology at CU (where he also teaches in the ethnic studies department). Walker chaired the committee that reviewed Ward's work prior to his receiving tenure in (I think) 1996. Lane essentially elicited a testimonial (Ward speaks for the voiceless, challenges authority, etc.).

On cross-examination CU's attorney Kari Hershey got some weird responses from Walker. She asked him if he agreed that, regardless of discipline, it would be improper for a scholar to plagiarize. Walker: "Not without admitting it. But when you admit it, it's not plagiarism."

Hershey asked, "You agree that filling in the dots doesn't mean the scholar gets to make up the dots," that he has to rely on facts?

Walker: It's only a fact in that it's a hypothesis.


Continuing the defense strategery of simply pointing out Churchill's unsupported or mendaciously supported assertions, Hershey put up the passage in which Ward claimed that smallpox-infected blankets were shipped upriver from a St. Louis infirmary to Fort Clark on the upper Missouri, and asked: From that you would expect that there was a smallpox infirmary in St. Louis, wouldn't you? Walker: Yes.

Lane tried once again to get across that even if Ward was wrong about the infirmary, etc., all another scholar had to do was dispute those facts; Churchill (possibly) being wrong was not a firing offense. As always, he left out the little detail that Churchill had no evidence whatsoever for his assertions.

Lane brought up Evelyn Hu-Dehart's boast that even Holocaust deniers are "given space" to air their views in the academy, and claimed that if Churchill had "good reason" to believe there was an infirmary, then he should "no more be fired than a Holocaust denier." Walker replied that it was "in the world of academic freedom."

Next up was a former student of Churchill's, Hillary Old, who took several classes from him (American Indians in Film; The FBI at Pine Ridge; Marxism and Indian Issues) 15 years ago. Oh, she just learned so much from Ward, and his classes were "healthily uncomfortable." But what was really sickening was when Lane brought out that Old was living in New York (Brooklyn, to be exact) on 9/11.

It was a "stunning, shocking, painful day," she said. She described crossing the Brooklyn Bridge on foot after the disaster:
There was a real kind of caring and tenderness. Hushed tones. A hushed thread of questions from little kids to adults asking, "How is this happening," some thread of "is there something we did, our nation did, to provoke this?" There was humility and tenderness. Professor Churchill's opinion [in the 9/11 essay] was a kind of offering, from his provocative style, answering some of those questions.
Five-minute recess while everyone throws up.

Next was former CU prez Hank Brown. I won't get into it too much, but he and Lane went around about the Daniels Fund (which Brown headed at the time) withholding money for CU because of the Churchill scandal; whether the scandal was "all Churchill all the time" as Lane keeps saying (Brown: "There was plenty of competition"); whether Brown believed there were more liberals than conservatives on college faculties; ACTA; how two of the research misconduct charges, rejected by the Privilege and Tenure Committee, were unilaterally reinstated by Brown, and so on. Very oddly, Brown said he has never read Churchill's 9/11 essay, but had gotten from others the impression that it was anti-semitic.

A member of the jury asked Brown, What in the scandal was most damaging to Churchill's reputation? Brown: The professor's conduct was most damaging to his reputation.

After lunch it was the turn of Robert Williams, a professor of law and American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona, enrolled member of the Lumbee tribe, and, briefly, member of the CU committee investigating Ward Churchill's scholarship. After lengthy qualification as an expert in American Indian Studies and American Indian law (almost 12 minutes by my mini-tapie) Williams began with the reasons he resigned from the investigating committee. Basically, he said, it was the incompetence and dithering in resolving his concerns about perceptions of a conflict of interest if he served (among other potential problems, he'd written lovingly about Churchill in the past).

Williams described his "patience" with the committee while they futzed around, but "then, things started happening." He claims he was getting e-mails from Denver Post reporters, "wanting to know how much I'd paid Ward Churchill to come down and be a professor. I was getting four or five calls from Denver papers wanting to interview me about my supposed conflict of interest. These were things I was concerned about." This next deserves a blockquote:
There's a website apparently called Pirate Ballerina that somebody said, "You ought to take a look at this website. Your name is all over it." And I go to that website and I see things that I had written about Ward Churchill show up on this website as demonstrating that I was not qualified to sit on this committee because of a conflict of interest.
More later. That little rascal PB, by the way, notes that the Silver & Gold Record briefly interviewed Chutch at the trial, and will have a special Wart-Trial supplement out Monday.

Update: You may not believe this, but Race to the Bottom is much more thorough and knowledgable than I are on the case. (I'm funnier, I claim.) Here's their account of the morning session.

Update II: In comments, Leah provides some info on the Lumbee tribe:
There is a sizeable Lumbee population in Baltimore. The Lumbees are not a near extinct tribe in NC. They are the largest tribe east of the Mississippi. They received federal recognition in 1956, but in exchange for the recognition they gave up the right to federal services as Indians. They have been trying to get on the federal services gravy train ever since, despite their agreement to the 1956 deal. There are two problems with the Lumbees receiving full federal recognition. First, they cannot prove they have any Indian ancestry (like Churchill). Second, they have claimed to be a bunch of different tribes since 1885, one of which was Cherokee in the early 20th century. Not surprisingly, the Eastern Band of Cherokee wasn't too happy about their false claims of Cherokee ancestry. So they have set out on a course of payback, trying to prevent the Lumbees from getting full recognition. Other Indian tribes are also skeptical of Lumbees, partially because of the tribe's considerable African ancestry and constantly changing oral history. Thus Williams is a member of a tribe that is intensely racist towards African-Americans, while also having many members who look like African-Americans, and believes that their unstable oral history should be the only proof required to get pots of money. Williams and Churchill have a lot in common.

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