Ward Churchill smiles as the first day of his civil suit against the University of Colorado wraps up at the City and County Building in Denver on March 10,
Ward Churchill smiles as the first day of his civil suit against the University of Colorado wraps up at the City and County Building in Denver on March 10, 2009. (Mark Leffingwell)

A professors' rights group has issued a new report recommending that faculty members seeking employment consider the University of Colorado only as a "last resort" because, it alleges, the dismissals of two faculty members were unjust and violated academic freedom.

In the report issued this month, the Colorado Conference of the American Association of University Professors criticizes CU for not renewing the 2007 contract of Phil Mitchell, an instructor in the Sewall residential academic program, and for firing Ward Churchill, a tenured professor in the ethnic studies department. CU officials fired Churchill in 2007 after an academic misconduct investigation.

Campus spokesman Bronson Hilliard said Churchill was given full due process during the academic misconduct case, and Mitchell's contract was not renewed because he was not adhering to the academic-rigor standards that were clearly communicated in the program.

"These cases have no bearing on the issue of academic freedom, and they are certainly not related to each other," Hilliard said. "The University of Colorado at Boulder is a world-class destination for both students and faculty, and if we were systematically denying academic freedom to our professors, I don't think that would be the case."

But Colorado's branch of the AAUP says the university violated the two faculty members' academic freedom.

The report says CU orchestrated Mitchell's dismissal because of hostility by the History Department toward his conservative religious and political convictions and that Churchill was fired for his unpopular speech, stemming from a 2001 essay that dismissed some victims of the 9/11 attacks as "little Eichmanns."

"The Colorado Conference of the AAUP recommends that faculty in search of employment consider a position at the University of Colorado only as a last resort because of the University of Colorado's indifference to the ideals of academic freedom," the group said.