It's Just a Farce:
Ward Churchill and the Research Misconduct Inquisition
On May 16th, 2006, an Investigative Committee of the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct at the University of Colorado, Boulder, released its report concerning allegations of research misconduct leveled at Ward L. Churchill, a tenured professor of Native American Studies at the University, and a prolific writer, public speaker, and Native American activist. In the report, the committee stated that it had unanimously found Ward L. Churchill guilty of "serious" and "deliberate" research misconduct.
The report was the culmination of a lengthy year and a half long inquisition initiated against Ward Churchill in retaliation for comments he made in an essay entitled "Some People Push Back" and the follow-up book, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens, both of which concerned the events of 9-11. In the essay, Churchill argued against the popular public belief in the innocence of the World Trade Center victims by labeling them a "technocratic corps" that functioned as the organizers and facilitators of U.S. empire, and comparing them to Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Nazi perpetuated holocaust during World War II.
Immediately, a well coordinated media inquisition began. Headed by Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, a chorus of moral outrage that spanned the political spectrum grew throughout the country. The goal of this media witch hunt was to force the University of Colorado to fire Ward Churchill for his remarks about 9-11.
The hypocrisy of these witch hunters was immediately evident as media outlets and politicians all over the country, including Colorado Governor Bill Owens and the Senate of Colorado, clamored to defend America against Ward Churchill's statements by demanding that he be fired for his "anti-American sentiments." Apparently they did not notice that in advocating for the firing of Professor Churchill (based solely on his political opinions) they were themselves attacking "American Values" - in the form of the 1st amendment of the United States Bill of Rights. When the initial frenzy cooled, the inquisitors realized their tactical error and immediately initiated a new campaign to discredit and marginalize Professor Churchill. This time the defenders of America disingenuously sought to question the factual basis of Ward Churchill's scholarship and have him fired for research misconduct. This is the point where the real farce began.
Accusations of research misconduct against Ward Churchill, some of which were rehashed from ones made nearly a decade ago, began to flow into Interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano's office at the University of Colorado. Chancellor DiStephano lost no time condemning Ward Churchill's scholarship calling it "profoundly repugnant" in public statements and vowed to fully investigate the claims of research misconduct. Not surprisingly, on March 24, 2005, DiStefano issued a statement concerning the accusations of research misconduct against Professor Churchill in which he concluded that "the allegations of research misconduct, related to plagiarism, misuse of other's work and fabrication, have sufficient merit to warrant further inquiry." This was the starting point for a process that would take longer than a year and eventually lead to the formation of a committee to investigate the accusations of research misconduct against Ward Churchill. On May 16th, 2006, the five member committee assigned to investigate Professor Churchill found him guilty of "serious" and "deliberate" research misconduct.
For many in the media this was end game. A jury of Professor Churchill's peers had thoroughly investigated the allegations against him and found him guilty - end of story. However, despite the trite glee of personalities like Bill O'Reilly and others who rejoiced in Professor Churchill's downfall, there is more to the story than a simple verdict of guilty. In fact, a thorough investigation of the Investigative Committee's report, in which they found Churchill guilty, shows that the reality is much more complex. There are often two sides to a story............
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