March 19 update

March 20, 2009

From the always delightful Ken Bonetti.

Today seemed like a relatively good one for Professor Churchill.  After nearly two weeks, the testimony got down to the central issue and the raison d’etre for this entire sordid affair—Professor Ward Churchill was investigated, persecuted and condemned–not for how he wrote, i.e. research misconduct, but for what he wrote, i.e. the 9/11 essay.  To accomplish that feat, David Lane’s team called two ‘reasonable’ professors to the stand, who made no bones about what they thought of CU’s investigation and two unimpeachable experts in the field of Native American Studies who strongly supported Churchill’s claims regarding the Mandan smallpox incident.  One expert effectively trashed the University’s accusation of fabrication against Professor Churchill.  

Following the remainder of Professor McIntosh’s testimony further detailing Churchill’s alleged multiple academic transgressions Professor David Stannard, chair of the American Studies department at the University of Hawaii testified that Church’s claims of the number of Mandan who died in the 1837 smallpox epidemic could be supported by the literature.  He said the CU investigating committee was overly concerned about the precision of the estimates.  Stannard, evincing that he viewed Churchill’s conviction by the committee was political rather than substantive took the opportunity to state that he thought the investigation was a witch-hunt designed to have Churchill fired and that “no self-respecting professor” would participate in a committee where academic freedom was the true issue.

Professor Philo Hutcheson an expert on faculty behavior and academic tenure, after a long line of questioning by O’Rourke about the rigors of the tenure process, was induced to conclude that because Churchill was hired with full tenure, the tenure vetting process was more or less irrelevant.  Hutcheson, upon cross-examination by Churchill attorney Robert Bruce, criticized the investigating committee for including no expert in Churchill’s field.  Hutcheson stated the normal punishment for similar transgressions would be docking summer pay or a one year suspension with pay, not firing.

Professor Emma Perez, who took over the chairmanship of the CU Ethnic Studies Department after Churchill resigned told the jury she was “appalled” by the investigative committee’s findings and that she signed a statement along with ten other CU faculty stating that the committee itself committed falsification and fabrication.  The CU attorney O’Rourke asked Perez if out of the more than 1,000 tenure-track faculty at CU, fewer than 10 signed her grievance letter.  Perez responded, “Yes it was very disappointing, wasn’t it.”  

Yes indeed, it was tragic that so few CU faculty had the courage to stand up against the sacrifice of academic freedom for political expediency.  

The pinnacle of testimony was the transcript of Dr. Barbara Mann, and eminent historian at the University of Toledo.  Due to technical glitches with the video projector, her statements were read aloud by Churchill’s lead attorney David Lane.  Her account of the 1837 epidemic was detailed and wholly supportive of Churchill’s writings about the incident, including those concerning the Army infirmary and the smallpox blankets.  Her testimony strongly contradicted the investigating committee’s claims, all but exonerating Churchill on that point.  Professor Mann’s testimony will continue tomorrow.  I can’t wait!

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