Academic freedom

Ward Churchill is not a likeable man. He also says unpopular things. And he may well not be a perfectly careful scholar or a star as a teacher. Most of his public persona seems well-tuned for annoying the hell out of almost everyone, and particularly for being a huge headache at the University of Colorado for everyone.

Unfortunately all of this has badly muddled the discussion of his academic trial and dismissal. Because his deliberately provocative political style hit the national media scene, he became an embarrassment to the University. He was then purged and his dismissal recommended by a committee of his peers at the request of the Administration. An unreasonable standard was applied to his scholarship. The microscopic attention and rigid standards used to convict him would in my estimation fire about ten percent of the nation’s tenured faculty, minimum. I say this as someone who grew up the child of a professor at a good university and has heard 30 years of watercooler talk about and by professors.

This was a political lynching. To draw an analogy, they treated him the way a really angry state trooper would treat someone who insulted him after a traffic stop. Let’s find out exactly what we can do to this guy: search the car, run all the computers, write up every possible traffic violation.

A number of academics seem to agree, thank goodness, and have published an ongoing petition. This isn’t some useless petitiononline thing, I think. I hope a lot of academics sign it.

At a minimum the University of Colorado deserves to be publicly shamed and blacklisted for this. At this point I personally consider them to be unaccredited.

8 thoughts on “Academic freedom

  1. TDS is largely organized by the list of profs who were singled out as the 100 most dangerous academics by that cow pat David Horowitz. About 70 of them decided to take him at his word.

    1. I would too. If you’re gonna be demonized, you might as well get the cool outfit and the lair and the space lasers like the other supervillains.

  2. That was a very well-written and convincing petition, although I’m still not certain I absolutely agree. (And of course you always question their political motivations as well: How many of these professors would rise to the defense of Churchill’s “academic freedom” if he called the Lebanese children killed this past week Little Eichmanns or whatever?)

    1. With luck, another set of professors with a different set of biases would do so. And a smaller group would oppose both dismissals.
      I can’t put academic freedom in quotes like that, either. If you let political lynchings be disguised as dismissals for gross violations of academic principles, then it’s time for the big purge.

      1. Well, in my mind it’s a fine line, hence the quotations…I certainly respect and uphold the concept of academic freedom. And it’s definitely wrong to fire someone based solely on their political views and disguise it as a violation of academic principles (that’s the thing I’m taking away most from this). I’m just not entirely sold that dismissing someone for espousing extreme political views that prove, in the end, damaging to a University, fits as a true violation of academic freedoms.

      2. Oh, I don’t expect logical or moral purity from anyone; I’m crappy at it myself. I’m glad I got the point across about using academic disciplinary procedures to stop bad politics, and I’m more than willing to differ from you on some of the definitions here without exploding in a fit of internet flame.

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