Ward Churchill

Interesting. The University of Colorado has released a report on its investigation of Ward Churchill. And?

Among the violations that the committee found Churchill had committed were falsification, fabrication, plagiarism, failure to comply with established standard regarding author names on publications, and a “serious deviation from accepted practices in reporting results from research.”

Uh – that’s bad. That’s what you don’t do. You know like when you go to the dentist? The dentist isn’t supposed to take the sharp things and jam them into the roof of your mouth on purpose. That’s contraindicated. Same thing with this. Academics aren’t supposed to falsify, fabricate, or plagiarize. It doesn’t matter whether they’re controversial or offensive or rowdy or longhaired; they don’t get to falsify and fabricate. They just don’t. Being controversial and offensive doesn’t mean they do get to, as some kind of compensation for the fatigue or risk of being controversial and offensive. It doesn’t work that way. Made-up social science just isn’t wanted, no matter how thrillingly controversial the maker-up is.

It’s like David Irving, again. Ward Churchill doesn’t have a free speech or First Amendment right to falsify and fabricate. It’s not a criminal offense and not an imprisonable one, but it’s not a protected free speech right, either. He doesn’t get to say ‘it’s my First Amendment right to fabricate and falsify my research’ and carry on doing it.

He doesn’t get to say his hand slipped, either. They thought of that, and said No.

The Committee found that Professor Churchill’s misconduct was deliberate and not a
matter of an occasional careless error. The Committee found that similar patterns recurred
throughout the essays it examined. The Committee therefore concluded that the degree of his
misconduct was serious, but differed on the sanction warranted.

The committee also pointed out that the controversy is one thing and the misconduct is another. Important point, that.

The Committee notes that the Laws of the Regents of the University of Colorado
define “academic freedom” as “the freedom to inquire, discover, publish and
teach truth as the faculty member sees it, subject to no control or authority save
the control and authority of the rational methods by which truth is established.”
We understand and were careful to distinguish “misconduct in research”…from the issue of “truth” addressed by
the Regents’ Laws’ definition of academic freedom. The Committee observes
also that the allegations we were asked to investigate were initiated in the wake of
the public outcry concerning some highly controversial essays by Professor
Churchill dealing with, among other things, the 9/11 tragedy. While not
endorsing either the tone or the contents of those essays, the Committee reaffirms,
as the University has already acknowledged, that Professor Churchill’s right to
publish his views was protected by both the First and Fourteenth Amendment
guarantees of free speech. Although those essays played no part in our
deliberations, the Committee expresses its concern regarding the timing and
perhaps the motives for the University’s decision to forward charges made in that

The timing and context are highly unfortunate. Too bad Churchill provided so much ammunition for his critics.

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