Report on the Termination of Ward Churchill

By the Colorado Committee to Protect Faculty Rights (CCPFR)

Ward Churchill was dismissed from the University of Colorado (CU) in 2007, having been convicted of plagiarism as well as fabrication and falsification of evidence for his claims that the United States government had been complicit in the genocide of Native Americans. It was Churchill’s essay of September 12, 2001, that drew attention to him— an essay that called victims of the attack on the World Trade Center “little Eichmanns.” For four years the essay, titled “Some People Push Back,” went unnoticed, but in 2005 it caught the attention of faculty and administrators at Hamilton College in New York, and from there it went viral, becoming the topic of nonstop media commentary that lasted for months.

Beginning in February 2005, a firestorm of public opinion raged. Politicians, media commentators, and citizens clamored for Churchill’s dismissal from the University, threatening to withhold both state funds and private donations. Realizing that Churchill’s right to express an opinion was protected by the First Amendment and that therefore they could not dismiss him for publishing what they felt to be a vile remark about innocent Americans, the University sought other reasons to dismiss Churchill. 

During his employment at CU, Churchill had published more and won more recognition for his scholarship, teaching, and service than, perhaps, any other member of the faculty. He had also become a controversial figure in the field of American Indian Studies— incurring both the admiration and the wrath of other Indian activists and scholars. One antagonist—John LaVelle—had complained to CU officials about some of Churchill’s scholarly claims several years earlier, but his concerns had been dismissed as not worth pursuing. But now that the University needed to find a means to fire Churchill, it sought LaVelle’s help in constructing a case against him for research misconduct. Several charges were lodged against Churchill for falsification and fabrication of evidence as well as plagiarism.

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