Findings from a preliminary study concerning the possible firing of controversial University of Colorado ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill were released Monday by CU’s interim president Philip P. DiStefano.
New findings from DiStefano’s investigation confirmed Churchill’s employment would be safe for now, thanks to the First Amendment.
In a statement, DiStefano said the content and rhetoric of Churchill’s writing and speeches were protected through the First Amendment, no matter how outlandish.
“While there are limits to the protections afforded by the Constitution,” DiStefano said. “Our review has determined that those limits have not been exceeded in Professor Churchill’s case.”
Controversy surrounding Churchill erupted in late January at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., where Churchill was scheduled to speak on Feb. 3. Churchill was never allowed to take the podium, since his speech was quickly cancelled after a faculty member discovered his contentious 2001 essay “Some People Push Back.”
In the essay, Churchill called the victims of Sept. 11, 2001 “little Eichmanns,” a reference to Adolf Eichmann, Hitler’s officer responsible for carrying out the “Final Solution” during World War II.
After the initial discovery, news outlets like Fox’s O’Reilly Factor took the story to the national level. Hamilton officials were then swamped with death threats aimed at Churchill and for safety issues cancelled the speech.
This did not stop Churchill from touring the country, including a stop at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater to deliver a speech on Native American rights.
In the time since Churchill’s initial run-in at Hamilton, CU has been forced to take extra measures to examine his occupational status. Churchill already has stepped down from his position as chair of the ethnic studies department.
CU Board of Regents chair Jerry Rutledge said he respected Churchill’s right to air his views, although he found them “outrageous, egregious and patently offensive.”
“Those incendiary remarks are an embarrassment to a tremendously strong teaching and research university such as CU,” Rutledge said.
Many were unhappy with the Churchill situation since it did not result in his firing. Officials from the office of Colorado Governor Bill Owen were especially upset after they called for his immediate firing following Churchill’s national attention.
Mark Salley, deputy press secretary for Governor Bill Owen, said they would remain supportive of Churchill’s removal process.
“I think the most ideal situation would be for the process to move quickly if they could complete it in two months, and if that decision were to terminate Ward Churchill,” Salley said.
DiStefano’s plan did outline the continued investigation into Churchill’s marred past. The study comments on Churchill’s alleged research misconduct, teaching misconduct and fraudulent misrepresentation.
Of eight allegations in total, six can be attributed to possible research misconduct, one corners teaching misconduct while the last claims Churchill lied about his status as a Native American in order to gain employee-related benefits and gain credibility amongst the Native American community.
Claims of fraudulent misrepresentation date back as far as 1979 when Churchill identified himself as Native American in an application to CU.
In many instances, Churchill uses an “Indian voice” and claimed he was a member of the Keetowah band of Cherokee.