University of Colorado at Boulder: Investigation of Professor for Controversial Essay

Category: Due Process, Free Speech
Schools: University of Colorado at Boulder

Entrenched in vast controversy for referring to the civilians who died in the World Trade Center as “little Eichmanns,” University of Colorado at Boulder Professor Ward Churchill stepped down from his position as chair of CU-Boulder’s ethnic studies department. Problems arose, however, when the CU Board of Regents declared they were going to launch an investigation into Churchill’s “writings, speeches, tape recordings and other works.” FIRE wrote to CU noting that Churchill is entitled to due process and should be given the chance to defend himself, and assuring the university that Churchill’s speech, no matter how controversial or offensive, is protected by the First Amendment. Ultimately, the Board of Regents fired Churchill for “serious, repeated, and deliberate research misconduct” after finding that he had committed academic fraud. Churchill sued, on the basis that the investigation had been launched as a result of his controversial statements. FIRE took the position that while the initial investigation of Churchill’s speech was unconstitutional, as he was protected under the First Amendment, Churchill had put himself in the spotlight through his controversial statements, and was therefore susceptible to any further inquiry into his other works. In FIRE’s view, the termination for academic fraud was constitutional.

  • Speech on Campus After 9/11: Less Free than It Used to Be?

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  • Prof Ready to Sue if Fired

    May 18, 2006

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  • The Chill Is Nothing New

    September 9, 2005

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  • Insults and the Constitution

    March 7, 2005

    Insult is powerful. Insult begets both rage and humor, and often at the same time. Consider the dialogue in “Romance,” a new play by David Mamet in New York. A cast of six characters, all of themmen, some gay and at least one of them Jewish, goesafter each other. A Protestant defense lawyer and the Jew he’s in court to defend hate eachother. “You people can’t order a cheese sandwich without mentioning the Holocaust,” shouts the lawyer. “I hired a goy lawyer,” responds his client. “It’s like going to a straight hairdresser.” The satire aims for humor, but it’s humor […]

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  • Prevention 101

    February 24, 2005

    University of Colorado Ethnic Studies professor Ward Churchill deserves to be excoriated and shunned. Churchill, as widely reported, likened Americans killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11 to “little Eichmanns.” At the same time he celebrated the “gallant sacrifice” of those terrorist “combat teams” who had annihilated them. Elsewhere, Churchill declared that the United States should be put “out of existence”; “it may be,” he also stated, “that more 9/11’s are necessary.” Both public officials and private citizens should exercise their right to free expression by scathingly criticizing such odious speech.   But — barring evidence of violations such […]

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  • Warding off attack

    February 18, 2005

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  • Protecting Free Speech Means Rising Above Professor’s Words

    February 15, 2005

    The following text is excerpted from a letter by Greg Lukianoff, director of legal and public advocacy for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, to University of Colorado at Boulder Interim Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano. Before discussing the position of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education on the recent controversy involving University of Colorado at Boulder professor Ward Churchill, I would like to say that FIRE is fully aware of the difficulties the university faces. FIRE has not seen a controversy involving political speech on campus provoke such passionate and often angry public response since the controversies that […]

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  • Churchill Affair: A Matter of Hypocrisy

    February 15, 2005

    As the sordid controversy of University of Colorado (UC) professor Ward Churchill plays itself out, what is perhaps the most damaging aspect of it has largely escaped notice: campuses’ double standard in First Amendment matters. Churchill, as widely reported, compared the World Trade Center victims on 9/11 to Nazis and praised their murderers as “gallant…combat teams.” In the ensuing national uproar, Hamilton College in New York, which had invited Churchill to speak, decided to cancel the event, stating it had received threats of violence against Churchill and college officers. The college’s president, Joan Hinde Stewart, covered her back with bogus […]

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  • Open discussion must be protected

    February 14, 2005

    Fury over University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill’s inflammatory and crude comments branding victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as “little Eichmanns” is well justified.  But Colorado now stands at a crossroads where it must decide whether to indulge in an emotional overreaction that sacrifices academic freedom or to rediscover the true meaning of the adage attributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Indeed, “disapprove” seems far too modest a term to apply to Churchill’s ranting. In his effort to make a point about what he […]

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  • Ward Churchill fired: What’s next?

    August 9, 2013

    by Greg Lukianoff The Huffington Post   To the surprise of virtually no one, the University of Colorado’s (CU’s) Board of Regents voted to fire controversial professor Ward Churchill late yesterday. The Regents cited the extensive findings of academic misconduct against Churchill as the reason for the dismissal. Anyone following the case, however, will remember that Ward Churchill initially came to national attention because of an article in which he compared the victims of 9/11 to Nazi bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann. After a student newspaper at Hamilton College drew attention to that article in 2005, a national uproar ensued, prompting the […]

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  • Judge rejects Ward Churchill’s plea for reinstatement, vacates verdict in his favor

    August 7, 2013

    by Peter Schmidt The Chronicle of Higher Education   A state court judge on Tuesday not only denied Ward Churchill everything he sought in his long-running battle with the University of Colorado system, but also negated the one victory the controversial scholar had won so far: a jury verdict holding that system officials had violated his First Amendment rights by firing him from a job as a tenured ethnic-studies professor in response to statements he had made. Having presided over the four-week trial that led to the jury’s April 2 decision that the university had illegally fired Mr. Churchill for […]

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  • Supreme Court Declines to Hear Ward Churchill Case

    April 5, 2013

    Regular Torch readers may be familiar with FIRE’s previous coverage of the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) Board of Regents’ decision to fire then-tenured professor Ward Churchill and the subsequent legal battle. This fight has now ended, as the Colorado Supreme Court ruled against him in September 2012 and the Supreme Court of the United States has declined to hear his appeal. As FIRE reported in 2005, Churchill lost his position after a CU faculty panel determined that he had engaged in “plagiarism, misuse of others’ work, falsification and fabrication of authority.” The investigation, though, had been initiated amidst a controversy […]

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  • Kaminer: “The End of Free Speech at University of Colorado?

    September 18, 2012

    Writing for The Atlantic today, Wendy Kaminer—lawyer, author, civil libertarian, and member of FIRE’s Board of Advisers—poses an important question: Does the Colorado State Supreme Court’s disappointing decision to deny former University of Colorado tenured Professor Ward Churchill’s appeal by granting “absolute immunity” to the Colorado Board of Regents signal “The End of Free Speech at University of Colorado?” Professor Churchill has maintained—and a jury agreed—that the University’s justification for firing him was pretextual and that the real reason he was fired was for constitutionally protected speech in the form of statements he made about the victims of the attacks […]

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  • Churchill Loses in Colorado High Court; Next Stop, Supreme Court?

    September 12, 2012

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  • Colorado Supreme Court to Hear Arguments in Ward Churchill Case Thursday

    June 6, 2012

    The Colorado Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in former University of Colorado at Boulder Professor Ward Churchill’s First Amendment lawsuit against the university’s Board of Regents on Thursday. Longmont Times-Call reporter Mitchell Byars writes:  The Colorado Supreme Court announced in 2011 that it would hear Churchill’s appeal, including a key argument about the quasi-judicial immunity doctrine that Churchill and his attorneys have challenged, arguing it threatens academic freedom and tenure at universities.  In addition to reviewing whether granting CU’s Board of Regents quasi-judicial immunity comports with federal law, the Supreme Court will consider whether CU violated Churchill’s First Amendment […]

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  • A pox on both their houses: Ward Churchill and UC-Boulder

    July 30, 2007

    For critics of higher education, few campus controversies have been as illuminating as the ongoing saga of Professor Ward Churchill. His case has uniquely intertwined all of the higher education issues du jour—Academic freedom, plagiarism, affirmative action, liberal bias, degraded campus culture—into one messy cloud of controversy that just will not go away. And now that Churchill has sued his former employer, University of Colorado-Boulder, for defamation, more unflattering facts about standard operating procedure on campus may soon be revealed. A brief recap: Shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Churchill, then the tenured chair of the UC-Boulder’s ethnic […]

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  • Ward Churchill and the diversity agenda

    July 30, 2007

    This week, as expected, the University of Colorado regents dismissed Professor Ward Churchill from his tenured position in the Ethnic Studies Department. (A university committee had found that Churchill committed plagiarism and misused sources.) And, as expected, Churchill has filed suit, alleging First Amendment violations.   The move against Churchill—who first attracted attention after describing those who perished (except for the terrorists) in the World Trade Center attack as “Little Eichmanns”—came over the opposition of the ACLU, which charged that the “poisoned atmosphere” of the inquiry into Churchill’s scholarship rendered meaningless the committee’s findings. ACTA president Anne Neal, on the […]

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  • Suit could end in settlement

    July 25, 2007

    When Ward Churchill takes his dismissal case to court, he will have difficulty shifting a jury’s focus away from the academic-misconduct findings in his research, the president of a national watchdog group for free speech on college campuses said Tuesday. But the timing of the University of Colorado’s academic-misconduct investigation into Churchill’s work could be a hole in the school’s defense, said Greg Lukianoff, who heads the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, based in Philadelphia. Churchill—freshly fired from CU—is expected to file a First Amendment lawsuit against the university this morning in Denver District Court. The regents Tuesday evening […]

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  • University of Colorado Fires Ward Churchill

    July 25, 2007

    Last night the University of Colorado Board of Regents voted to fire professor Ward Churchill on the grounds of “serious, repeated, and deliberate research misconduct.” This vote came more than two years after the university investigated Churchill for making controversial public statements, including a reference to the victims of the World Trade Center attacks as “little Eichmanns.” FIRE released an analysis of the situation in 2005, determining that Churchill’s statements are protected and that the university’s initial investigation was unconstitutional. FIRE further cautioned that while the university’s investigation of Churchill’s research misconduct must not be swayed by anger over the […]

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  • University of Colorado Board of Regents fires Ward Churchill, who vows to sue

    July 25, 2007

    Nearly six years after Ward Churchill compared some American victims of terrorism to Nazi bureaucrats, the Board of Regents of the University of Colorado voted Tuesday night to fire him. But the controversial ethnic-studies professor said he was “ready to roll” into the next stage of his struggle with the university: a court of law. According to university administrators, it was findings that Mr. Churchill had committed research misconduct—and not the notoriety of Mr. Churchill’s opinions—that fueled the decision. To read the full story, please click here: http://chronicle.com/daily/2007/07/2007072502n.htm

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  • Prof’s protest of ‘political litmus test’ raises hackles

    September 10, 2005

    Oh, that KC Johnson. He’s always getting into hot water.Of course, that may have something to do with the fact that the administration at Brooklyn College of The City University of New York keeps trying to bring the water to a full rolling boil, hoping he’ll jump out. Well, perhaps he should. He deserves better, and his institution doesn’t deserve to keep him. But his students, who on the evidence are unlikely to encounter many other faculty members who exemplify the academic virtues of free inquiry and principled disagreement, need him.Robert KC Johnson is a tenured professor of history at […]

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  • Inquiring Minds

    April 15, 2005

    One morning a few weeks back, David A. Sandoval was sitting in his office at Colorado State University at Pueblo and speaking to a local reporter on the telephone. The reporter had called to get the Chicano-studies professor’s opinion on Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado at Boulder professor who had recently tripped the switch of national outrage by calling the victims of the World Trade Center bombings “little Eichmanns.” In the firebrand’s defense, Mr. Sandoval offered the standard-issue rhetoric of academic freedom: Mr. Churchill’s words were hurtful and terrible, yes, but it was nonetheless “appropriate for him to raise […]

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  • Churchill Wars Continue

    March 28, 2005

    Both Ward Churchill and one of his legislative critics compared the University of Colorado to an asylum this weekend — showing that the debate over the controversial professor has not been put to rest by a university review released Thursday. Churchill says that the new investigation requested by the review — this time an inquiry into whether he engaged in plagiarism and other forms of research misconduct — is unfair. In a speech in San Francisco Friday night, he said that the new investigation at Colorado, which will examine among other things his claims of being an American Indian, was […]

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  • FIRE Issues Analysis of Churchill Report

    March 25, 2005

    On March 24, 2005, the University of Colorado Board of Regents released its “Report on Conclusion of Preliminary Review in the Matter of Professor Ward Churchill.” This report states that no action should be taken against Professor Churchill on the basis of even his most controversial public statements. The report also states, however, that sufficient evidence exists of “plagiarism, misuse of others’ work, falsification and fabrication of authority” to refer such allegations to the University of Colorado at Boulder Standing Committee on Research Misconduct. Additionally, the report also refers to the Standing Committee the question of whether Churchill “committed research […]

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  • Free speech on campus

    March 24, 2005

    LET’S DISPENSE with some tangents right off. It’s a bad idea for teachers to spank students. There’s evidence that women are not innately handicapped when it comes to math and science. And it’s offensive hyperbole to cast the World Trade Center victims of the 9/11 attacks as “little Eichmanns.” But that aside, we don’t have any problems with a student writing a school paper supporting corporal punishment, a university president raising the issue of possible gender differences, and a professor espousing radical ideas. In fact, our society and our universities are better off if faculty and students are allowed to […]

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  • Free Speech Debate Spurs Lots of Words

    February 27, 2005

    When Hamilton College canceled a Colorado professor’s appearance this month because of security concerns, it was only the latest in a recent string of free speech controversies at local campuses. Hamilton, the State University College at Oswego, Wells College and LeMoyne College have all become embroiled in the last year or so in what people should be allowed to say and when. It’s not just a local issue, said David French, president of Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in Philadelphia (FIRE). “The specific problems you’re running into are being replicated on a mass scale across the country,” French said. […]

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