02 Apr Jury Rules Ward Churchill Wrongfully Fired
It’s not exactly international law, but he was my professor at CU — one of the very best I ever had — and, in order to rule in his favor, the jury had to find that a majority of the Regents used his infamous 9/11 essay as a “substantial or motivating factor” in the decision to fire him. So I think there’s a nexus.
I’m delighted at the outcome, although the jury’s award of $1.00 in damages is puzzling. The real issue is whether Churchill will be reinstated at CU, which is up to the judge, not the jury.
Whatever one thinks of Churchill, his victory is very good news for academic freedom. You can read about the trial in remarkable detail at Race to the Bottom. I followed the trial closely, and am more than a little biased, but the vast majority of the research-misconduct allegations against Churchill seemed amazingly petty: the kind of “mistakes” — most were simply differences of scholarly opinion — that I imagine a disciplinary committee bent on firing someone could find in the work of anyone who had been a prolific scholar for nearly 30 years. (The only genuinely disturbing plagiarism allegation, for which he had a decent explanation, took place before Churchill was at CU and could not be used as a reason for his dismissal.)
All in all, an excellent result. Fingers crossed that the judge reinstates him.
UPDATE: A minor note. The New York Times article says that “[a] reinstatement would likely draw a sharply negative reaction among many on the faculty, since a faculty committee was instrumental in his firing.” That is a somewhat misleading statement. Three CU committees reviewed the allegations against Churchill, and although all of them concluded that he had engaged in misconduct, only one — the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct — recommended that he be fired. Indeed, the final committee, Privilege & Tenure, voted 4-1 against firing him.