Ward Churchill, who made headlines when he called the victims of 9/11 “little Eichmanns” who deserved their deaths, has been fired by the University of Colorado tonight. The action comes from a lengthy review of his past representations of his experience and his background rather than the political stances he took, but Churchill promises to sue for wrongful termination:
The University of Colorado Board of Regents voted to terminate controversial professor Ward Churchill on Tuesday evening.
The Board of Regents passed a motion to accept the recommendation from CU President Hank Brown to fire Churchill from his position in the Ethnic Studies department. …
“This case was an example not of mistakes, but an effort to falsify history and fabricate history and in the final analysis, this individual did not express regret or apologize,” said Brown. “This is a faculty that has an outstanding reputation and this move today protects that reputation.”
“At the end of the day we had to look at what these three committees had presented to us and what 25 tenured faculty had said and that was really important to all the board members,” said Hayes.
Quite frankly, I find this all a bore. Churchill inflated his resume and claimed a Native American heritage that turned out to be adopted. I don’t see those as particularly heinous violations in Academia these days. I find speech codes much more offensive than a literary phony with tenure at one campus.
However, I don’t feel particularly sorry for Churchill, either. He has misrepresented himself and sought to inflate his public profile on the backs of dead victims of terrorism. His firing has little to do with this, and so it has little to do with issues of academic freedom. The only connection comes from his own efforts to draw attention to his hateful diatribes, which launched a thousand research projects into his background. Churchill is a ridiculous and petty figure.
His termination will probably allow him another 15 minutes of inexplicable fame. I’m not sure the trade is worth it.
UPDATE and BUMP, 7-25 8:14 am CT: I wasn’t being terribly clear when I wrote this post. I don’t disagree with UC’s decision to fire Churchill. It’s just that I hardly see this as a national crusade. Ward Churchill is not the only professor to exaggerate his CV or make anti-American statements. Hang around long enough in Academia and you’ll probably find plenty of both. For that matter, you’ll find the same in the private sector, too.
Churchill is just one man at a public university, and the attention he gets is all out of proportion to the influence he wields. The national campaign to get him fired has given him more credibility than ever, and his termination will give him a patina of martyrdom, too. Was all of the effort worth it?