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Ward Churchill: Academic Freedom Denied A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
An anti-imperialist ethics professor has no rights that his university is bound to respect. That's the lesson from a Denver District Court that refused to reinstate Ward Churchill, despite a jury's finding that he was fired from the University of Colorado because of his political statements. “There is no such thing as academic and political freedom if you can be fired for exercising it.”
Ward Churchill: Academic Freedom Denied
A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford
“His real crime was in declaring that U.S. society, as well as the U.S. government, was no innocent victim.”
Academic freedom has long been more of a myth than a reality in the United States. Like so many “freedoms” Americans celebrate, it tends to fail the test when confronted with the larger public’s freedom to exact vengeance against those it hates, and the freedom of large institutions to exclude those who question the role of those institutions, from within.
The political activist and ethics professor Ward Churchill’s freedoms were negated earlier this year by a Denver District Court that ruled he was not entitled to get his job back at the University of Colorado, even though a jury had earlier decided Churchill had been fired for his political views. There is no such thing as academic and political freedom if you can be fired for exercising it.
Churchill’s crime was in writing an essay the day after September 11th, that tried to put the attacks in the context of U.S. foreign policy’s effects on other peoples in the world. He used the term “little Eichmanns” to describe some of the people who died in the World Trade Center – not a very politic thing to do, but certainly not as harmful as what George Bush unleashed on the world in the aftermath, or the wave of racist, fascist-like assaults on anybody vaguely Middle Eastern-looking that continue to this day.
Ward Churchill was made to pay for his impolitic political statements, despite his disavowal of organized terror and his admission that families of 9/11 victims might have been hurt. His real crime was in declaring that U.S. society, as well as the U.S. government, was no innocent victim – that imperialism is a system based on crimes and terror and sometimes the superpower criminal gets terrorized back. In much, if not most, of the world such opinions are thought to be self-evident. In the United States, they are broadly considered a kind of treason, beyond the pale and beyond the protection of the Constitution.
“Ward Churchill was made to pay for his impolitic political statements.”
Certainly, the Denver District Court mangled the Constitution in finding that Churchill did not deserve reinstatement or compensation for his lost professorship. To justify their decision, the court ruled that the university’s board of regents had acted as judges in dismissing Churchill, and therefore, their decision was beyond challenge. If that were true, the regents constituted a very strange court, indeed, since they had collectively denounced Churchill before even formally examining his case.
The District Court also dismissed the fact that a real, legally constituted jury had agreed with Churchill, that he had been fired for political reasons. But, since the jurors only awarded him $1 in damages, the court believed it could get away with giving Churchill nothing.
The law can’t get any flimsier than that. Which shows that academic freedom isn’t just a fragile thing, in America – it’s broken.
For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
 
Direct download: 20090715_gf_Churchill.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:26am EDT