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May 25, 2006 10:31 pm

The Churchill Response

Ward Churchill has posted his somewhat bizarre response to the University of Colorado's investigation against him. The basic line is unsurprising: that the university was politically motivated; that any misconduct he committed hadn't been caught before his controversial remarks, so it couldn't have been serious; that he was denied due process, for a reason or reasons unknown. He hilariously chastises the committee for failing to perform its role as a"nonadversarial" body, even though his own adversarial conduct prevented that from happening. The Churchill line was anticipated by comments in Inside Higher Ed from Prof. Tim Shortell and a figure calling him/herself"Unapologetically Tenured," neither of whom seem to like what either Ralph or I had to say about the case.

But apart from blatantly distorting the committee's findings (which he essentially characterizes as agreeing (!) with his conclusions), a couple of the lines in the report are breathtaking, even for Churchill.

"Ethnic Studies not only bases itself in the perspectives of diverse communities, but employs its own set of research practices and methodologies." While it's true that all disciplines employ different methodologies, plagiarism or misrepresenting footnotes aren't part of any discipline's"research practices."

He viewed his job as"to bring a critical indigenous understanding to my teaching and scholarship. However, the committee included no American Indians and no one with expertise in American Indian Studies." On the former, was he saying that an American Indian who wasn't expert in his field would have sufficed?

He excuses (unspecified) factual errors on the grounds that"much of my work takes the form of synthesis; in other words, connecting-the-dots with respect to a broad range of information."

He accuses the committee of using improper standards of behavior--most notably that of the AHA--standards that had never been used before, except in"blatantly political cases, such as those of David Abraham and Michael Bellesiles." So Bellesiles is now innocent, too?

In the end, Churchill concludes, the inquiry"is but the latest volley in a national, indeed international, campaign to discredit those who think critically and who bring alternative perspectives to their research. The May 9 report generated by the University of Colorado’s investigative committee is designed to send a clear message to all scholars: Lay low. Do not challenge orthodoxy. If you do, expect to be targeted for elimination and understand that the University will not be constrained by its own rules – or the Constitution – in its attempts to silence you." All elements of that international conspiracy can rest easier tonight.

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More Comments:

Robert KC Johnson - 5/26/2006

Ralph's point is well taken here--and it's hard to determine the validity of the allegation against Diggins without a specific reference to page numbers and footnotes.

Ralph M. Hitchens - 5/26/2006

The CU report did to Churchill what Richard Evans did to David Irving, and should serve as a lesson to those who would use footnotes dishonestly, as a Potemkin village.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/26/2006

Mr. Segal, Depending on how serious the misrepresentations of Pocock were and how characteristic of Diggens' other citations, I'd say that could be a very damaging finding about Diggens' work. Did your finding not intrigue you enough to do some other looking?

Jacob paul segal - 5/26/2006

I wonder how common it is to misrepresent other people's work in serious academic work. I was reading The Lost Soul of American Politics by John P. Diggins and was taken aback by his attacks on my beloved J.G.A Pocock. I checked his three quotations from the The Machiavellian Moment on one page, and each on misrepresented what Pocock said.

this is not to defend Chuchill, an absurd figure.

Jonathan Dresner - 5/25/2006

It's been fixed. Computers are very finicky about punctuation....

Sherman Jay Dorn - 5/25/2006

I don't see anything in the first paragraph after "Inside Higher Ed" (with no punctuation). Was there part of the code that may have swallowed your text?

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