You have to fight for freedom

February 20, 2009

From Dr. Gian S. Pagnucci, the English Department Chair at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

But whether or not I agree with Ward Churchill, I will say this: the man has a right to express his views. In fact, I am glad to have the opportunity to hear him talk about his views. It seems very clear to me, particularly after reading an article by Eric Cheyfitz on “Framing Ward Churchill: The Political Construction of Research Misconduct” in vols. 26/27 of Works and Days (2008-2009) that Churchill got mistreated by his university. It seems to me that whatever pretense to academic principles was made, Churchill was really being fired because he had made unpopular statements. What was worse, the statements were not even objected to until some conservative commentators started complaining. You can’t start a whole process of inquiry after a huge news story breaks and then somehow pretend you are being objective. That is dishonesty at its worst. Churchill’s academic work only was investigated because he’d been attacked by conservative voices like O’Reilly’s.

And that brings me to Churchill’s talk at IUP. A small group of people have called/emailed to object to Ward Churchill’s coming to campus. That’s their right. I’m happy to let people complain. Many have also contact us to think the event is great. Some people, though, call to say, “are you using state tax dollars to pay for the event?” I wasn’t aware that individuals can redirect tax dollars. I have a lot of tax spending I am not crazy about: the war in Iraq, the auto bailbout money, etc. But I can’t call the President and say, “hey, I want my money spent on education.” I wish I could. What I can do is support people’s right to speak, no matter what they say. At universities, that’s called academic freedom. And if we aren’t careful, that’s a freedom people will take away. You have to fight for freedom. You have to fight so people like Ward Churchill can say what they want. If we don’t fight, then we won’t be living in America any more. We’ll be living in a country that’s not free.

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