Ward Churchill isn't just some controversy that flashed over the newswires last year. He's a real human being, a teacher, a soldier against holocaust denial in America and one of the few writers who took the time to explain "why they hate us." He's also a tenured professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado. Backed by powerful right-wing forces nationally, the campus administration is seeking to revoke his post for the tumerity to document empire.
Churchill is a showman as anyone who's ever seen him speak can testify. Sometimes he lets his own arguments get the best of him. But on this one, there's no mistake. Churchill isn't being purged for ettiquette. It's about a little matter of what America is. Churchill is ferocious in his exposure of America's hidden holocaust and imperial genesis. He has little patience for collegiality in the face of white supremacy.
Do academics have the right to question empire? To document its abuses? To challenge the youth on the ethics of Eichmann? Are professors bound to tow the party line in supposed "times of national crisis"?
For his courage to not shut up, we should all support Ward Churchill's right to teach, share his analysis and refuse a right-wing witchhunt through college campuses. If Churchill is fired, the chill will set in on campus. Turmoil would not be inappropriate, public solidarity is in order.
On the link, there's an Open Letter from Concerned Academics. If you're on campus, get involved or at least lend your name.
Open Letter From Concerned Academics
OPPOSITION MOUNTS AS SHOWDOWN APPROACHES OVER THE FIRING OF WARD CHURCHILL
by Concerned Academics - CA; Concerned Academics; January 16, 2007
Dismissal hearings for University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill were held this past week. Ward Churchill appeared before the Privilege and Tenure Committee with many witnesses speaking in his behalf. The committee will have 30 days to issue its findings to CU president Hank Brown. Brown will weigh the findings and make a recommendation to the Board of Regents.
Opposition to his dismissal is growing on campuses across the country. The firing of Churchill, a tenured professor and former head of the Ethnic Studies Department at UC Boulder, is increasingly being seen by those in academia as an attack on academic freedom, dissent and critical thinking that must be stopped. In a recent statement the Colorado branch of the American Association of University Professors notes “we believe that the investigation [into alleged research misconduct] now is widely perceived to be a pretext for firing Churchill when the real reason for dismissal is his politics.” The AAUP statement raises serious questions and concerns over the handling of the Ward Churchill case, and calls for the reversal of the decision to fire him.
This growing movement of opposition to the firing of Professor Churchill includes some of this country’s most prominent scholars and public intellectuals, including Noam Chomsky, Derrick Bell and Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of International Law and Practice at Princeton University. In an essay recently solicited by the journal of the International Studies Association entitled "On Behalf of Robust Academic Freedom", Professor Falk writes, “The relentless pursuit and persecution of Ward Churchill is a revealing instance of the witch-hunting McCarthyist ethos that is currently threatening academic freedom.” And he concludes, “When academic freedom is threatened, the most sustaining response, is vigorous defense on principle”. In August, Anthropology Today published an editorial entitled “Education and the Dangerous Professor: The Challenge for Anthropology” written by University of Denver Anthropology Professor Dean Saitta. Richard Delgado's recent review of Ward Churchill’s latest work On the Justice of Roosting Chickens, published in the American Indian Law Review, makes it quite clear that the attacks are a result of Ward's political speech.
On September 29 –30th The Emergency Summit Of Scholars And Activists Defending Critical Thinking And Indigenous Studies was convened in Lawrence, Kansas. It produced a resolution written to the P&T Committee calling on the University of Colorado Boulder to reinstate Professor Churchill because of a deeply flawed investigation
Thousands of academics have signed petitions and visited websites spawned by this movement to defend dissent and critical thinking in academia, now focused on the case of Ward Churchill, including Ward Churchill Solidarity Network, defendcriticalthinking.org, teachersfordemocracy.org and more.
There is also increasing student activity in support of Ward Churchill. In December of 2006 a student group was formed at the University of Colorado called Students for Academic Freedom (SAF). On December 16, they held a press conference to protest the "politically motivated" investigation of Churchill, and to call for him to receive the UCB Alumni Association Teaching Recognition Award that he won in 2005 which was withheld pending the outcome of the investigation. An SAF spokesperson said "We are prepared to take organized action against the administration between now and the month of February to ensure that our demands are met," "If this process goes forward, it would set a precedent that, despite the traditional peer review process, and despite tenure, professors must always censor the conclusions of their research to popular acceptance, or face harsh repercussions. This threatens the nature of academia. This precedent should send a shock wave of fear to all professors nationwide."
Natsu Saito, Law professor at Georgia State College of Law and wife of Professor Churchill, wrote in a recent letter, “We are at a critical stage with respect to CU’s attempt to fire Ward Churchill.” Academics across the country are increasingly speaking out to say that Ward Churchill must not be fired. The Open Letter From Concerned Academics issued at the beginning of this case and signed by over 600 faculty stated: “This attack is intolerable and must stop now. The precedents already set in this case – that a professor can be publicly pilloried and threatened with dismissal for what he writes – must not be allowed to stand. The University of Colorado Board of Regents must drop any effort to fire Churchill… and repudiate its actions up to now; and all colleges and universities must reaffirm, in word and deed, their commitment to defend critical thinking.”