An anonymous source tells us an email is currently making the rounds among academics seeking signatories to a statement calling on CU to reverse its decision to fire Ward Churchill.
Here's the full text of the statement as reported to PB (careful readers will note that the statement is an almost word-for-word replication of Churchill's own response to CU's latest action) [update: a second academic source who also received the email informs us that the email had prefatory remarks by University of Denver professor Dean Saitta, which we've added as the italicized portion of the quote below. Saitta appears to have been the author and sender of the complete email]:
Dear Colleagues--We cannot find this statement on the website of Teachers for a Democratic Society (although judging by what is on the site, as well as by its list of members—which includes Dean Saitta—one might easily assume that the statement is at least in conformity with the organization's agenda), so we've contacted the site's webmaster for confirmation that it is, in fact, circulating the statement; we'll keep you posted.
For several reasons I won't go into here I was among those maligned by David Horowitz in his book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America. As a consequence of being listed in that book--and given other contemporary assaults on the professiorate by people much smarter than Horowitz-- the diverse and motley bunch that is the “101” have had lots of interesting email conversations about the state of academic freedom in America. This led to the creation of an organization and website called "Teachers for a Democratic Society" (but it could have been called any number of things along that line), and formation of a group to plan a conference on academic freedom to be held at City University of New York in 2007.
We've recently produced the statement about the Ward Churchill affair that I provide below. This statement is looking for signatories beyond the 101. It is starting to circulate within the academic professions. I've sent it to other faculty senate presidents in Colorado who are circulating it among their faculties. It will get sent to the CU administration and local and national newspapers that have been tracking the Churchill story. It will be posted along with signatories' names on the TDS website, and perhaps elsewhere.
I don't know what the sentiment about the Churchill decision is among us. The 101 is less concerned with the specifics of Churchill's scholarship, politics, and allegedly bad "attitude" (something he got hammered for in the CU investigative committee's report) than we are with the threat the decision to fire him poses to academic freedom and activist scholarship in America. Many of the 101 have read the investigative committee's report and found it deeply problematic. I myself have several substantive problems with it that go beyond what we identify in our statement. The statement captures only the main points of unanimity among the 101.
If you would like to sign on to this statement, please let me know and I'll add your name to the list of supporters. Hope everyone is having a good summer.
[address information for Dean Saitta removed]
16 July 2006
To Whom It May Concern:
As members of academic professions committed to the principle of academic freedom, we deplore the procedures and recommendations of the University of Colorado in the case of Professor Ward Churchill. Responding to a public outcry against Professor Churchill's constitutionally-protected free speech, the administration of the University of Colorado appointed a special committee to investigate the character and quality of Churchill's scholarship. The committee recommended his dismissal, a recommendation that is supported by university administrators.
The case against Professor Churchill is flawed on multiple contextual, procedural, and substantive grounds. Some of these are recognized by the university's own investigative committee. The committee's final report communicates a profound "disquiet" about the political motivations for the inquiry. Similarly, it worries about the fairness and legitimacy of a process that has the university's interim Chancellor serving as formal complainant against Professor Churchill while he's also positioned as prosecutor and judge.
In addition to these misgivings about context and process, the report contains other substantive problems. These include (1) an unreasonably broad and elastic definition of "research misconduct"; (2) a near-obsessive interest in dissecting a small number of paragraphs and footnotes from an otherwise "impressive" and "unusually high volume" of academic work, an analysis that virtually guaranteed the discovery of errors, misrepresentations, and inconsistencies even as it affirmed the validity of several "general points" and a core of "historical truth"; and (3) a failure to fully appreciate the "scholar activist" and "public intellectual" roles-roles that, on balance, expand and enrich the academic and journalistic enterprises-that Professor Churchill was clearly expected to fill when hired by the University of Colorado.
The actions of the University of Colorado in this case constitute a serious threat to academic freedom. They indicate that public controversy is dangerous and potentially lethal to the careers of those who engage it. They suggest that professors-tenured and untenured alike-serve at the pleasure of politicians and pundits. They call into question standards of scholarship and peer review at Colorado's flagship institution. They endanger not only those scholars working in that area where historical inquiry, critical social commentary, and political activism intersect-an area that defines the true locus of academic freedom in an open and democratic society-but also those historically disenfranchised "others" who are struggling to have their perspectives and programs represented in, and legitimized by, the academic mainstream.
Thus, for a variety of reasons that go well beyond the scholarship and politics of a particular individual, we urge the University of Colorado to reverse its decision to fire Professor Ward Churchill.
Teachers for a Democratic Society