School Cleared on Firing Man After 9/11 Comment

     (CN) – A professor who publicly compared Sept. 11 victims to Nazi bureaucrat Adolf Eichmann cannot sue the school that fired him, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled.
     Ward Churchill, a tenured American Indian studies professor at University of Colorado, published “Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens” on Sept. 12, 2001. The essay referred to people who worked in the World Trade Centers as “little Eichmanns,” and likened Eichmann’s work organizing trains to send Jews to concentration camps to “ongoing genocidal American imperialism.”
     After the University of Colorado’s student newspaper discovered the essay and published it in 2005, the school found that the writing was protected speech but discovered multiple instances of academic misconduct during its investigation.
     The school fired Churchill in 2007. In a 102-page report, it slammed him for ghostwriting, self-citation, plagiarism and falsification of data in his academic writings.
     A trial court ultimately dismissed Churchill’s claims of free-speech retaliation and employment violations, and the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed in 2010. That decision found that the University’s Board of Regents had “quasi-judicial” immunity for the firing.
     “Churchill’s academic freedom did not include the right to commit research misconduct that was specifically proscribed by the University’s policies and enforced through a system of shared governance between the administration and the faculty,” according to the opinion authored by Judge Dennis Graham.
     The Supreme Court affirmed Monday, saying the regents’ choice to fire Churchill “was a quasi-judicial action functionally comparable to a judicial process.”
     The court also denied Churchill’s request for reinstatement and front pay, and it agreed that his bad-faith investigation claim was properly dismissed.
     Reinstating Churchill is not appropriate because his relationship with the university has been irreparably damaged. It would also harm the university’s ability to enforce its standards of academic integrity and could impair the university’s ability to attract students and faculty, the Supreme Court found.
     “The trial court’s rulings and findings did not constitute an abuse of its discretion and these rulings are affirmed,” Chief Justice Michael Bender wrote for the court.
     Qualified immunity also barred Churchill’s bad-faith investigation claim because the regents’ investigation into his academic record did not implicate a clearly established statutory or constitutional right or law, the 50-page ruling states.
     Churchill published “On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality,” a book arguing that American foreign policies provoked the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2003.
     The title hearkens to a comment in which Malcolm X likened President John F. Kennedy’s assassination to “chickens coming home to roost.”
     On Churchill’s work, activist and philosopher Noam Chomsky said the former professor “has carved out a special place for himself in defending the rights of oppressed people, and exposing the dark side of past and current history, often marginalized or suppressed.”

%d bloggers like this: