Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Ward Churchill Report

(This report requires Adobe Acrobat Reader or other PDF viewer or plug-in.)

Here's the bottom line:

  1. The Special Investigative Committee is almost sorry that it had to investigate Churchill, because people have known about his academic sins for years and never brought them up until he sounded off about 9/11.
  2. Nevertheless, if Ward Churchill thinks that people singled him out for an extra look at his academic practices, then he brought it on himself by deciding to make himself a public figure.
  3. In fact, the Committee found him guilty of at least some misconduct on all seven of the allegations that came before the Committee. This included four counts of falsification (saying that a source said one thing when it didn't), two counts of fabrication (making stuff up out of the whole cloth), two counts of plagiarism (passing off other's work as one's own), three counts of failure to follow established procedure in putting an author's name on a publication, and one count of failing to follow procedure in reporting research findings.
  4. The Committee in effect thought that he had seriously damaged the case he was making for, say, mistreatment of the Native Americans, because if he exaggerates something, then someone else could more easily deny that it occurred. This, of course, is a variation on Aesop's Boy Who Cried "Wolf" theme.
I do take issue with the Committee's painstaking avoidance of the appearance of punishing someone for his views. Some views are beyond the pale. If Oliver Wendell Holmes, in his role as Chief Justice of the United States, could find that the right of free speech does not permit one to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theater and start a panic, then still less ought it to permit one to incite other people to start a fire in such a venue for real. And that is what Ward Churchill did.

All that this Committee report really says is that Ward Churchill is a raving paranoiac whose research product is more like urban legend than responsible, reliable scholarship. But if even that is not enough to fire a professor at an institution of higher learning, then I'd like to know what would be enough.

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