July 21, 2006

Professors group supports Churchill

Seventy of those tabbed in a book as "dangerous academics" say CU's acts are a threat to freedom.

Professors who united after being named as the "most dangerous academics in America" by a conservative author are urging the University of Colorado not to fire Ward Churchill.

Teachers for a Democratic Society, a blogging group formed by people listed in David Horowitz's book "The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America," is circulating a letter calling the actions of CU administrators a "serious threat to academic freedom."

"They indicate that public controversy is dangerous and potentially lethal to the careers of those who engage in it," says the letter, signed so far by 70 professors across the country. CU launched an investigation into Churchill's scholarship 1 1/2 years ago after a national outcry over his essay comparing some Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism victims to Nazi bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann.

In May, a faculty committee determined Churchill plagiarized and fabricated material in his scholarship. Boulder interim chancellor Phil DiStefano announced last month that he wanted to fire Churchill, who has appealed to another faculty committee.

The letter says the committee that spent months poring over the ethnic-studies professor's scholarship used an "unreasonably broad" definition of research misconduct.

But outgoing CU Faculty Council president Rod Muth said the peer review of Churchill's work and its findings of academic misconduct were solid.

University of Denver anthropology professor Dean Saitta, who helped draft the letter, said many faculty believe CU "has been looking for a way to complete a foregone conclusion."

"I think we are unanimous in believing that terminating his employment is not fair," Saitta said, adding there should be lesser punishment.

Churchill's attorney, David Lane, had not seen the letter but said, "Teachers and professors everywhere should be extremely concerned about the actions of the University of Colorado."

Staff writer Jennifer Brown can be reached at 303-820-1593 or jenbrown@denverpost.com.


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