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February 07, 2005

The Ward Churchill Affair: A Poll of My Students

I started my bus econ class (seniors) today with a poll. I asked the students to write Yes or No to the following question, and not to write their names. I told them I wouldn't give them more details, or my opinion (except after class), or give them more than a couple of minutes to think of an answer:
QUESTION: Professor Churchill of the U. of Colorado said in print that the 9-11 victims deserved to die. Should he be fired?
The responses:

Yes: 3

No: 19 (updated the next day from 17-- two votes slipped onto my office floor)

That contrasts with the unanimous (with one exception) YES of the Colorado state legislature. UPDATE: As Doug Sundseth points out in a comment below, I'm wrong on this last point. The GOvernor called for firing Churchill, but the legislature merely said Churchill's views were deplorable, a reasonable thing to say. See http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/legislature/article/0,1299,DRMN_37_3517054,00.html

Posted by erasmuse at February 7, 2005 05:33 PM

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While I'm sure that most of the Colorado legislature would like to see Churchill gone, the text of the House resolution (http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/legislature/article/0,1299,DRMN_37_3517054,00.html) does not call for his termination. Rather, it (quite properly) condemns his speech and expresses sympathy for the victims of 9/11.

ISTM that this falls into the category of responding to reprehensible speech with more speech.

I further note that I can agree that the published text to which you refer is fully protected by tenure while still calling for his termination. Had your question been "Should he be fired for saying [that]?", I would answer, "No". As written (and having followed the story of his possible academic dishonesty), I would probably answer your question as written with "Yes". I further note that terminating the entire department, which I also support (and would have supported before I ever heard Ward Churchill's name), would also result in his firing without necessarily implicating academic freedoms that deserve protection.

Posted by: Doug Sundseth at February 9, 2005 07:19 PM

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