March 20th update

March 22, 2009

From the eminent Ken Bonetti. Unfortunately, this’ll be the last one, as he’s off to the wild.

To my mind, this day was the most important of the trial.  The testimony I had been waiting for since this thing began had finally come and it met my wildest expectations.  I knew when Cornell University’s Professor Eric Cheyfitz took stand, the trial would be effectively decided.  I felt that despite the long and rather convincing testimony of Professor Robert Clinton, unless the jury was brain-dead, an irretrievable seed of doubt would be planted deep into their consciousness.  I have included the Race to the Bottom blow-by-blow on both Clinton and Cheyfitz.  However, this commentary will dwell on Dr. Cheyfitz and some of my experiences with him during the spring of 2007, when a small group of us were trying desperately to prevent the firing Professor Churchill and the grave damage that would do to academic freedom at the University of Colorado.

Here is Race to the Bottom’s description of Dr. Cheyfitz’s credentials:  “Cheyfitz is an endowed chair of the American Studies department at Cornell University. American Studies is the history, politics, and social life of the United States, now expanded to include the Americas. His scholarship includes American Indian studies. He is familiar with Federal Indian law and general traditions and histories associated with his specialty: American Indian studies.”  

I met Dr. Cheyfitz when he came to CU to present his paper on the CU investigating committee’s report condemning Professor Churchill.  In April of 2007, a group of CU professors and staff, including myself, invited Dr. Cheyfitz, along with a number of scholars from around the country, to a colloquium on academic freedom presented in the context of the charges of academic misconduct leveled against Professor Churchill.  I was in charge of logistics and publicity for the event.  No matter how I tried to publicize the event and interest the press, the Colorado Daily, Boulder Daily Camera, Denver Post, the Rocky Mountain News refused to publish our announcements or run press statements.  The colloquium was lightly attended and universally ignored in the media.  The only media follow up was yet another negative article on Churchill’s ‘guilt’ in the Rocky Mountain News followed by the usual avalanche of vitriolic hate letters to the editor. 

At the colloquium, there were several presentations outlining the critical issues, examining the case against Professor Churchill and analyzing the political environment that occasioned his persecution, including the role of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) and it’s operatives in the CU Administration and Colorado state government.  Dr. Cheyfitz had written a three-page essay deconstructing the investigating committee’s report against Churchill, point by bloody point.  We felt Dr. Cheyfitz was so important that we gave him a separate venue and publicity.  Again the media ignored us and few attended.  Like his paper on the Churchill investigation, the talk was a straightforward and devastating indictment of each charge leveled by the CU investigating committee.

At today’s trial, investigating committee member Professor Clinton’s testimony was lengthy, well spoken and convincing to some, However, Professor Cheyfitz’s testimony eclipsed all that has so far transpired in Denver District Courtroom 6.  

I will not attempt to summarize all of what happened in today.  Race to the Bottom provides a masterful account of the court action that should make for delicious reading by those who consider the Churchill affair a travesty of monumental proportions. 


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