Ward Churchill has lost another court appeal. Indeed, the U.S. legal system is far more willing to protect political lobbying by giant corporations than free speech by mere mortals. The CU bureaucracy has the audacity to claim that Churchill’s latest loss is a victory for academic integrity and honest scholarship. Does anyone really believe this self-serving fable?
Churchill was fired on the basis of trumped up charges that would never have been brought against anyone not already a political pariah. His firing has been a devastating blow to academic freedom, which was already under siege by various reactionary foes. It is another step towards making the academic profession a province of cautious careerists rather than bold truth seekers and guardians of the public good. Partly in response to Churchill’s firing, faculty members now take exceptional pains never to offend anyone who might harm their careers.
By firing Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado certainly gained the approval of conservative minions, but it also lost a great deal. It lost a scholar who pioneered new interpretations of Native American history and its relationship to other indigenous struggles. It lost a dedicated teacher who challenged and stimulated many students more than any other they encountered on the Boulder campus. It lost an audacious public voice who caustically chastised imperialist wars from Vietnam to Iraq. The firing of Ward Churchill was certainly no victory for responsible scholars or people of conscience. On the contrary, it was and remains a cause for sustained mourning by anyone who cares about knowledge and freedom.
Tom Mayer, emeritus professor at CU, sociology