16.5.06

BUSTED. Pirate Ballerina has been following the Ward Churchill investigation. Colorado's special commission has just released its findings. From the press release:
Professor Churchill committed several forms of academic misconduct as defined in the policy statements of the University of Colorado at Boulder and theUniversity of Colorado system.
Apparently, not the kind of "oops" that can happen late on the evening before the paper is due.
The Committee found that Professor Churchill’s misconduct was deliberate and not a matter of an occasional careless error. The Committee found that similar patterns recurred throughout the essays it examined. The Committee therefore concluded that the degree of his misconduct was serious, but differed on the sanction warranted.
I expect that the special committee's disclaimer will be controversial.

The Committee notes that the Laws of the Regents of the University of Colorado define “academic freedom” as “the freedom to inquire, discover, publish and teach truth as the faculty member sees it, subject to no control or authority save the control and authority of the rational methods by which truth is established.”

We understand and were careful to distinguish “misconduct in research,” which is addressed by the University of Colorado’s Administrative Policy Statement on Misconduct in Research and Authorship, from the issue of “truth” addressed by the Regents’ Laws’ definition of academic freedom. The Committee observes also that the allegations we were asked to investigate were initiated in the wake of the public outcry concerning some highly controversial essays by Professor Churchill dealing with, among other things, the 9/11 tragedy. While not endorsing either the tone or the contents of those essays, the Committee reaffirms,as the University has already acknowledged, that Professor Churchill’s right to publish his views was protected by both the First and Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of free speech. Although those essays played no part in our deliberations, the Committee expresses its concern regarding the timing and perhaps the motives for the University's decision to forward charges made in that context. We point out finally that when Professor Churchill was hired as an Associate Professor with tenure in 1991 and promoted to (full) Professor in 1997, the University knew that he did not have a Ph.D. or law degree, as commonlyexpected for faculty at this institution, and was aware that he was a controversial public intellectual.

That last sentence is precious; it's also a non-sequitur, unless there is a production possibility frontier somewhere along which deficient credentials and research misconduct can be traded off against representing marginalized perspectives. Perhaps such a frontier exists; if so, it would be helpful if Colorado's administration -- heck, any university's administration -- would acknowledge its existence. The resolution of this case also matters. If Professor Churchill skates on research misconduct in order to make a statement about censorship or popular intimidation, will any Colorado faculty member be able to bring to book a student who downloads a research paper?

The bull session has already begun at Pirate Ballerina's.

No comments: