Political positioning

One dollar is all a Colorado jury awarded Ward Churchill for a wrongful termination suit he filed against the University of Colorado. The jury found that he would not have been fired were it not for his political views.

One dollar is all a Colorado jury awarded Ward Churchill for a wrongful termination suit he filed against the University of Colorado. The jury found that he would not have been fired were it not for his political views.

Nonetheless, Churchill still deserved his firing. Not only have a number of independent academic investigations concluded he is guilty of plagiarism and falsification, but Churchill is one who expresses his views without decency.

In other words—even had he proven the quality of his research—being the hell-raiser he is, a university ought to have the freedom to fire him, and certainly should not be forced to rehire or pay him, as may happen later this month.

Churchill’s most visible political position in question is essentially that he believes the United States got what it deserved on 9/11. The title of his essay, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality (2003), says it all.

Churchill has claimed that his firing violates his First Amendment right to free speech, and a lot of people are buying it.

Indeed, as the University of Colorado ruled in 2005, it would not be able to fire him because of this essay alone, noting a number of federal rulings that public employees, according to an Inside Higher Ed article on the topic, cannot be fired for their freedom of expression.

Although the University of Colorado is public, isn’t a university different from the post office? To Churchill’s credit, at the time no one found evidence that his politics were interfering with his teaching. It’s not as clear whether or not this could ever be the case again.

But, how does losing your job equate to losing freedom of the press? As far as one can tell, he has gotten a lot of free press since his calling the victims in the Twin Towers during 9/11 “little Eichmanns” (referring to the notorious member of Hitler’s Nazi party).
And anybody who would like to publish his work still can—and his speech seems hardly abridged.

I understand the sentiment of the argument, and admittedly am uncomfortable with the idea that someone has the potential of being fired for political positions, but it seems a little absurd to call this a violation of the First Amendment.

What is more uncomfortable though is the reciprocal—if someone can show they were disliked in their work environment because of political positions, they can potentially claim immunity before the jury—even if they’re fired for other legitimate reasons, like Churchill.

A judge will now determine whether or not Churchill will be reinstated to his academic position or paid instead for future time he would have been teaching.

Ben Stein’s popular documentary Expelled might come to mind.

The film exposed the firing of several university scientists who lost their jobs and have been blacklisted for suggesting that the jump from primordial soup to single-celled life is a bit too complex without some intelligence giving that P-soup a bit of a stir.
How is their firing different from Churchill’s?

One difference, according to a story about Churchill in National Review, is that his doctorate is only honorary—how he became the chairman of Ethnic Studies is beyond many people’s understanding.

These scientists are by no means necessarily religious people, or of a different caliber than Churchill. They are not stirring up controversy by demonizing their academic opponents without even a nod to decency.

Videos of him show he is an interrupter—something of a bully.

In one, an interviewing student asks him, “Is it OK for someone to send someone in to blow up Israeli civilians?” To which he replies, “Well, I don’t know, but I understand that the truck-bomb is stuff or something of an Israeli invention.” Such rhetoric that completely ignores questions’ premises is typical.

The final uncertainty regarding his dismissal essentially comes from the fact, as Colorado President Hank Brown put it on July 30, 2007, “His academic misconduct sins were egregious, but [people] remain decidedly uncomfortable that those sins came to light after he engaged in controversial speech.”

The order of events really should not be an issue. Whether or not they looked into his record, being prompted by his outrageous statements does not change the fact that he is guilty of plagiarism. Too often our legal system consists of getting off the hook because one’s opponent made a foul in the process.