March 24, 2009

Ward Churchill, delusional

A little over three years ago, I noted that Ward Churchill was an awful poster boy for academic freedom, and he continues to astound me with his trial against the University of Colorado. According to both the New York Times and Chronicle of Higher Ed reporting on his testimony today, Churchill claimed both that his firing was motivated by external pressure and also that he should have been judged by academics outside the University of Colorado. But if there hadn't been an internal committee, I'm sure he would have pointed to the AAUP guidelines that tenured faculty should be judged by university/college peers before being fired for research misconduct.  One wonders what sort of procedural safeguards Churchill would claim is sufficient, if asked, or if he'd just like to get off scot-free with any potential misconduct if he's outlandish enough.

I disagree with my friend and fellow historian of education Philo Hutcheson, who testified on behalf of Churchill, arguing that firing him for research misconduct is too harsh because Harvard didn't punish its famous plagiarists. That may have a tiny bit of surface plausibility, as Margaret Soltan sarcastically notes, but Harvard's lapse is not Churchill's excuse. The inequitability-of-punishment argument holds within an institution, not across institutions, or no plagiarist could ever be punished because once upon a time, Harvard or its equal in this sort of academic prestige, Southern Illinois University, had famous plagiarists who did not have to carry the full consequences of their actions.

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Tags: plagiarism, research ethics, Ward Churchill
Posted in Higher education on March 24, 2009 10:51 PM |