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Colorado Professor Says Academic Investigation a Farce

A University of Colorado professor who faces dismissal over research misconduct allegations said Wednesday he was singled out as a dissident scholar after he wrote an essay likening some Sept. 11 victims to a Nazi.

Days after the top official at the university’s Boulder campus recommended he be fired, ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill told The Associated Press no scholar’s work could stand up to the scrutiny he is under.

“If you’re going to apply the rules the way they’re being applied to me, and you parse the way they are parsing me and you spin the way they’re spinning me, on the basis of those rules, I’ll make an equivalent case on any scholar you want to pick,” he said.

Churchill ignited a furious debate with an essay that related the 2001 terrorist attacks to U.S. abuses abroad. The essay referred to some World Trade Center victims as “little Eichmanns,” a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who orchestrated the Holocaust.

The governor and others called for Churchill, who is tenured, to be fired. University officials concluded his essay was protected by the Constitution but they ordered an investigation into his scholarship.

A faculty committee concluded last month that Churchill committed “serious, repeated, and deliberate research misconduct,” and Interim Chancellor Philip DeStefano said Monday the university should fire him.

Among other things, university investigators said Churchill misrepresented the effects of federal laws on American Indians and that he wrongly claimed evidence indicated Capt. John Smith exposed Indians to smallpox in the 1600s. It also said he committed plagiarism by claiming the work of a Canadian environmental group was his own.

Churchill, who had said a flawed panel had produced a report rife with falsehoods and misrepresentations, vowed to appeal through university channels and file a federal lawsuit if the appeal fails.

“It’s just a farce,” he said of the allegations.

He said academics who don’t challenge the status quo are rarely investigated, but “dissident scholars” like himself are accused of serious misconduct for mistakes as minor as punctuation.

Churchill acknowledged the Eichmann comparison was a “miscalculation” because, he said, most people did not understand his role in the Holocaust. Eichmann never personally killed Jews but was “a technician, a logistician, a consummate bureaucrat,” he said.

In his essay, Churchill said workers in the World Trade Center were part of America’s pervasive and influential economic empire “technocrats” he said were unaware of the impact of their work.

“If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I’d really be interested in hearing about it,” he wrote.

On Wednesday, Churchill said he was following the logic of the philosopher Hannah Arendt in her book, “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.” Churchill said Arendt believed Eichmann was the “everyman” of modern society, “and you need to be conscious of this, and you’re responsible for calibrating the impact of what you do on other people.”

Churchill has been relieved of academic work but will remain a paid faculty member as long as the firing is in the appeals process, university officials said.

–Associated Press

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