“Maybe she needed to be spit on.” — David Lane, one of Ward Churchill's lawyers. Response to claim that Ward Churchill spit on Carole Standing Elk during an argument.
Charming language from two charming gentleman—Ward Churchill and his lawyer. Do you suppose the Hawaiians really want their tourist trade decimated? I’ll bet you know plenty people who need to be spit on too? Churchill’s rant is really a bit confusing though. He starts out directly addressing his audience “you”—telling you to stay home. But he shifts to a third party, “if you have to break their knee caps in order to get them to, do it.” Just who is that “their” and “them”? He has a constitutional right to spout his lovely imagery, as well as his convoluted language structures.
Does he also have a constitutional right to distort history and pass if off as scholarship, or use other people’s writing and pass if off as his own? Does he have a constitutional right to use a fraudulent identity to perpetuate a stance to further his scholarship? Colorado Chancellor Phil DiStefano announced Thursday March 24, 2005, that these issues will be further investigated by a faculty committee; then
[i]f the Committee determines that Professor Churchill engaged in research misconduct, the Committee is to make recommendations regarding possible disciplinary action ranging from warning to dismissal. Consistent with University policy, the Committee's process will afford Professor Churchill all due opportunity to respond to the allegations.It could take up to nine months for the committee to respond. It could take between two and three years before they actually decide to dismiss Churchill, and then it could take many more years if he litigates to keep his job, which he has claimed he will do. All of this is perfectly reasonable. His obnoxious rantings, even though they “embarrass” the university, are protected under the First Amendment. And Churchill is a tenured professor; that’s why he cannot be fired immediately.
According to the evidence of plagiarism, misuse of sources, and outright stealing of other’s intellectual property that has been floating around the Net, and that not surprisingly, is now part of the report, there is no doubt that Churchill is guilty of those charges, Noam Chomsky’s approval of Churchill’s writings notwithstanding.
Churchill has contended that his research misconduct would never have come to light had it not been for the “Roosting Chicken’s” essay, for which we know he cannot be dismissed under the First Amendment. Actually, the charges of improper research conduct were leveled against Churchill in the mid- and late-nineties, and the University knew about them. This is a big problem for the University; they knew he had plagiarized, distorted information, and misused sources, but instead of disciplining him then, they rewarded him. Can they legally dismiss him for what they earlier condoned?
Of course, they apparently did not understand the magnitude of the problem that they faced back in the nineties. They didn’t take LaVelle and Brown seriously then. They took Fay Cohen seriously, because they are now in the middle of reviewing other research misconduct.
I suggest that Ward Churchill is a victim of a poor education; he has not received proper training to be a professor; he has not gone through the process of writing a PhD dissertation, and apparently he did not even write a MA thesis. The University of Illinois—which was called Sangamon State University, misspelled on Churchill’s web site, at the time of Churchill’s study—could not locate Churchill’s MA thesis. Officials from University of Illinois have stated that the thesis might not have been required at the time, and they describe the program Churchill followed as experimental, not requiring any grades. So it is hardly surprising that Churchill does not possess the skills to write and sound like scholar.
During the process of acquiring a doctorate degree, the candidate learns about plagiarism and how to avoid it. He learns how to document his claims and how to cite sources accurately. He learns that he cannot merely cite a whole book but must refer to specific page numbers. He learns that he is allowed to summarize or paraphrase a source, but he still must cite the page and work even as he must cite the page and work from which he takes a quotation.
Apparently Churchill had no mentoring as he was completing his graduate studies. If he had written an MA thesis, someone on his committee would have noticed that his work was simply not graduate level writing.
But then the University of Colorado is also guilty of letting him down. By rushing him through the tenure process without proper review of his scholarship, they promoted an unskilled individual to represent their university. Can you imagine the mayhem that would ensue if hospitals allowed surgeons with a comparable lack of education to assume operating room duties?
Churchill’s lack of an education is, at least in part, responsible for this bad research practices. His language betrays him as unprofessional; he simply does not speak or write as a professor. He seems to confuse a boorish attitude with erudition. His former school must take responsibility for his lack, as the University of Colorado must also own up to its share of guilt in victimizing Ward Churchill. Rewarding misbehavior sends the wrong message; Churchill has gotten away with statements that would embarrass most serious academics.
But the University of Colorado is surely not required to continue supporting the underprepared Churchill. Now that their mistakes and his are widely publicized, they will have to take the proper steps to correct those mistakes, and it appears that they are taking them.
Report on Conclusion of Preliminary Review in the Matter of Professor Ward Churchill
Ward Churchill: A contentious life