What Happened to Ward?

Defend Ward Churchill and Academic Freedom

Right-wing witch-hunters have University of Colorado professor of ethnic studies Ward Churchill in their sights. But progressive academics and activists have rallied in his support.
A University of Colorado faculty panel and a committee on “research misconduct” have recommend that the outspoken critic of the U.S. government and scholar of American Indian history be fired and the administration has moved to do so.
Citing debatable evidence of falsification and plagiarism in Churchill’s work, the investigating panel claimed in a May 16 report that their censure of Churchill was about his scholarship and not his political views.
But it is clear that the panel’s obsessive scrutiny of Churchill came as a direct result of attacks by right-wingers like David Horowitz. Horowitz has called for the censure and firing of radical professors in his book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.
Conservatives—and many liberals—decried Churchill’s remarks after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, in which he compared workers at the World Trade Center to Nazi functionaries, or “little Eichmanns.”
Churchill’s comparison was politically wrongheaded. However, the bulk of Churchill’s post-9/11 remarks argued rightly that the attacks were an example of chickens coming home to roost—an outgrowth of and response to U.S. imperialism in the Middle East.
In July, Teachers for Democracy (an initiative of a group of professors on Horowitz’s list) published a statement in defense of Churchill that recognizes the political basis of charges against him. Signed by more than 400 academics and others, the statement reads, “The actions of the University of Colorado in this case constitute a serious threat to academic freedom. They indicate that public controversy is dangerous and potentially lethal to the careers of those who engage it.”
The University of Colorado investigation has emboldened conservatives bent on persecuting left academics. The right-wing American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) published a report called “How Many Ward Churchills?” Their answer: “Ward Churchill is everywhere.”
John Wilson, author of Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies, commented, “The Colorado committee is opening the door to a vast new right-wing witch hunt on college campuses that conservatives could easily exploit across the country. If you don’t like a professor’s politics, simply file a complaint of ‘research misconduct.’”
Indeed, a growing number of outspoken academic critics of the U.S. and Israel have faced university firing squads. (These include Douglas Giles, a religion professor at Roosevelt University of Chicago; professor of Islam Kevin Barrett at the University of Wisconsin; the widely-respected University of Michigan Middle East studies professor Juan Cole, who was blackballed during a job search at Yale; Nancy Rabinowitz, who lost control of a center at Hamilton College when the center invited Churchill to speak; Nicholas De Genova of Columbia University; Timothy Shortell, who lost a chairmanship at Brooklyn College over his comments about religion; and Stanford University Middle East studies scholar Joel Beinin.)
We cannot allow these assaults on academic freedom and public expression of critical views to go unchallenged. As an anonymous blogger commented, “To the culture warriors on the right, Ward Churchill was simply the appetizer.”

Dana Cloud is one of Horowitz’s 101 “Most Dangerous” professors.
The petition is open to signatures from intellectuals, journalists, and others. For more information, go to http://www.teachersfordemocracy.org/?q=node/19 and http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2006/05/19/wilson .


The Movement to Defend Ward Churchill

*Ward Churchill Alert!

From criticalthinking.org

At the end of September we wrote that we’re at a crucial juncture in
the battle to defend dissent and critical thinking in the academy, and
that our movement needs to rise to a new level and make a much needed
leap. We see the attacks continuing to escalate, and finding focus in
the moves by the University of Colorado at Boulder to fire tenured
Ethnic Studies professor Ward Churchill. And w e said there is a real
basis for the CU administration to have to reverse its decision to
fire professor Churchill – „the more they see their decision coming
under growing scrutiny and condemnation nationally.‰ (See _October
2006 letter)
We have just received a copy of a 10/24/06 statement issued by the
AAUP Chapter at the University of Colorado at Boulder
„call [ing] on the University of Colorado’s administration to reverse
the decision to dismiss Professor Churchill.‰ We feel t his statement
is very significant, and underlines the potential – and the urgent
need – to step up our collective efforts to confront the overall
attack on the academy by „drawing the line‰ and demanding that
Professor Churchill not be fired. Coming from the Boulder AAUP, it
announces that if the administration goes ahead with the firing, they
risk an ongoing period of conflict and turmoil, from within the campus
and without. It also creates new conditions for winning many more of
our colleagues across the country, and people broadly, to see the need
and basis to oppose the firing of Churchill as well.

We believe it is critical at this moment to implement the course of
action we proposed in our October 2006 letter and we are calling on
each of you receiving this letter to make a commitment to act with
resolve in helping implement that course of action at this time, while
sharing your own thinking on other ways to proceed:

*Write articles, editorials, and Op Ed pieces for newspapers,
publications and prominent websites (Truthdig.com, Huffington **Post,
Chronicle of Higher Ed, insidehighered.com, etc.) that can be the
basis for greater opportunities:* Professor Dean Saitta‚s piece in
Anthropology Today is an excellent example. _Higher Education and the
Dangerous Professor: The Challenge for Anthropology

_Professor Robert Jensen‚s Parallel purges: Academic freedom in Iran
and America
article drawing
the connection between the president of Iran‚s call to purge the
universities, and what is taking place in the U.S. * Nazi Cleansing of
America‚s Universities: Could It Happen Here?
* is another. There is an
opportunity right now, in the wake of the statement from the UC
Boulder AAUP, to point to this statement in expressing our opposition
to the decision to fire Churchill. Let‚s seize the time, while
corresponding on the way to maximize the impact we can have at this

*PRESS/Media work:* We think there is an opportunity for the movement
in opposition to the attack on academia to be covered in media outlets
at this time, including major outlets such as Countdown with Keith
Olbermann, who has been outspoken in his opposition to the whole
direction that the Bush administration has taken the country. We are
going to explore these opportunities now, while continuing to plan for
a national press statement if we‚re unable to derail the CU
administration and a final decision is announced.

We need to be able to include in press releases a list of faculty who
are prepared to speak on the issues surrounding this case ˆ now, and
if/when a decision is announced. Please let us know if we can add your
name to this list of faculty available to speak. Include your phone
number/contact information, so we can provide that to the press.

At the October 7th meeting of faculty in Los Angeles a decision was
made to hold a conference in the coming months on the subject of
defending dissent and critical thinking. We will let you know more as
the details are worked out, but let us know if you are interested in
participating and speaking at the conference.

Thinking about politics

There is a lot going on: The National Socialist Movement (Nazis) and the Minutemen are coming to Austin, requiring a vocal public denunciation of the far right. Six men on TX death row have been hunger striking against dehumanizing conditions, and a number of others are engaged in daily micro-protests, which gets them pepper-sprayed and gassed. A number of these guys are innocent; all are poor and could not afford adequate representation in their capital trials. Many are victims of a racist system that punishes Black defendants four times as often as whites–when the victims are white.

Then there is the war. We are just coming off the deadliest month for U.S. troops and more than half a million Iraqis, most of them civilians, are dead, and for what? A costly attempt by U.S.empire to assert its dominance over the middle east for the control of oil. As the situation there degenerates, Bush now plans to send 20,000 more troops, when it is clear to me and to many others that it the war itself that has caused the downward spiral that has become such a tragedy for the Iraqi people.

As the U.S. war results in the slaughter of tens of thousands, our government has labeled those in Iraq and across the region who would resist “Islamo-fascists”–a made-up instance of doublespeak designed to justify a war prosecuted by a state uninsterested in the civil liberties of its citizens, the rights of immigrants and minorities, the freedom of women and gays and lesbians.

The right to speak out against the atrocities perpetuated by our system is under fire. A Lebanese student at my daughter’s high school who wrote an article about Israel’s war against Lebanon from the perspective of the Lebanese in historical context met with harassment by Zionist students, who called the FBI. The FBI went to the student’s home and interrogated his parents, my good friends. The police searched his school locker. He is only 16, trying to speak his heart and mind.

Academics who write against and protest the war also are under fire by right-wing attack dogs like David Horowitz and are coming under increased scrutiny in their research and teaching.

I have started this blog in order to do some regular writing about these and other issues. I encourage readers also to seek out the sites, activities and publications of activist groups like the Campaign to End the Death Penalty and the International Socialist Organization. Writing a blog will not stop the war or win the freedom of prisoners. It takes public collective action to change the world, and I hope you will not stop at reading this or any other person’s views.

I invite constructive and civil comments. If you have evidence that flies in the face of something I claim, then present it. If not, take responsibility for educating yourself. Anyone can have opinions. Any hope we have for a democratic and just society depends on people having and sharing real knowledge–and taking action based on that knowledge.