Max Boot: Imagine If Ward Churchill Had Referred to the Victims of AIDS as "Little Perverts"
To see where the balance of power lies in American academia, look no further than the University of Colorado, where the Ward Churchill scandal has claimed its first victim. No, not Churchill, the professor who gained national notoriety for describing the victims of the World Trade Center attack as"little Eichmanns" who basically deserved what they got. He's stepped down as chairman of the ethnic studies department, but he's still teaching classes and earning $94,242 a year, in spite of the university's attempts to sack him.
It's the university president who's heading out the door. Elizabeth Hoffman tendered her resignation on March 7 because of the Churchill controversy and more familiar problems of hanky-panky in football recruiting and excessive debauchery at student parties. Whatever Hoffman's alleged failings, they are dwarfed by Churchill's.
Since the original controversy over his essay justifying the 9/11 attack, a gobsmacking litany of accusations has been leveled against Churchill. He has been accused of plagiarism, of falsely claiming Indian ancestry and a Vietnam War combat record, of threatening faculty members and punishing students who disagreed with him, of fabricating historical evidence and of getting tenure under suspicious circumstances (he lacks a PhD). If even a tenth of the allegations are true, Churchill deserves to be thrown out on his ear — not for his pro-terrorist remarks but for all his other transgressions.
Easier said than done.
Churchill and his professorial colleagues are beneficiaries of the most ironclad protection for mountebanks, incompetents and sluggards ever devised. It's called tenure.
To fire a tenured professor requires a legal battle that can make the Clinton impeachment seem like a small-claims dispute by comparison. Even if there is clear evidence of wrongdoing, professors are entitled to endless procedural safeguards against being fired. The University of Colorado wanted to offer Churchill a generous financial settlement to leave voluntarily, but that idea has been torpedoed by regents angry at the idea of buying off this buffoon. An epic struggle looms in which Churchill and his numerous faculty defenders will nail their colors to the mast of"academic freedom."
One wonders whether so many savants would be rushing to defend Churchill from supposed"McCarthyism" if he had tried to justify the deaths not of the 9/11 victims but of the victims of AIDS ("little perverts"?) or the Holocaust ("little Shylocks"?). It's a safe bet that if Churchill were a loony right-winger, rather than a loony left-winger, his colleagues would be forming a lynch mob instead of a defense committee. ...
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Vernon Clayson - 3/18/2005
I find myself agreeing with Max Book for a change. He mentioned how much harsher Churchill would have been handled had he called the victims of 9/11 as "little perverts or little Shylocks." In the same vein, I recall that even the New York Times fired one of their ace reporters for faking stories and plagarizing others, and journalism trades on flummoxing their readers, one would think a university would expect more than that. Here's a man who pretended to be a Native American, something he isn't, and apparently used copyrighted material in articles and paintings, being kept on staff regardless of all this. On the other hand, perhaps many others with less than sterling credentials are similarly tenured by that university and don't want to be caught in their own webs of deceit.