Jury Rules in Favor of Ward Churchill, While the Media Rules Against Him
In the case of Ward Churchill vs. CU Boulder, the jury ruled in favor of American Indian scholar and activist Ward Churchill on all accounts. CU Boulder administration, right wing pundits and much of the mainstream press is fuming as a result.
You'll find many articles regretably conceding that yes indeed the firing of Ward Churchill was fueled not by academic misconduct, but by his controversial essay On the Justice of Roosting Chickens. The jury agreed to all three points of the prosecution: that CU used Churchill's opinions and words to terminate him, that the termination harmed Churchill, and that had it not been for the essay he had written (as opposed to the allegations of academic misconduct) that Churchill would still be teaching at the University of Colorado.
Still, quickly looking at the headlines from major news outlets and the story continues to be smearing Churchill, rather than recognizing that a university joined forces with conservative politicians to lead a witchhunt against a teacher for their political beliefs.
In the Denver Post, the lead article is "$1 for Churchill," focusing not so much on the ruling itself, but on the lone dollar being awarded to Churchill. This misses the entire point of the court case, which was to seek justice and not monetary compensation. Andrew Cohen of CBS News offers an "analysis" which furthers the tired argument from the right claiming that yet again another lazy, incompetent professor is saved by tenure and the opaque technicalities of law. This analysis makes claim after claim of Churchill being a poor professor who has not contributed to the academic world. This despite Churchill boasting of a huge resume of writings and analysis repeatedly referenced in Ethnic Studies. It fails to mention that before his firing he was teaching to standing room only classes or received an award for his scholarly contributions the same year he was fired.
The story of the day should be about the victory of free speech over the attempts by CU administrators and politicians of firing someone based on their constitutionally-protected political beliefs. Luckily that was the result of the trial, whether the media wants to recognize it or not.
In case you haven't heard yet, Ward Churchill, and justice, prevailed in
a Denver courtroom this afternoon. The jury in the 31/2 week trial was
asked to decide three questions (which I'm paraphrasing): 1)Did CU
Regents use protected speech (Ward's 9/11 essay) as a substantial or
motivating factor in its decision to terminate Ward? The jury answered Yes.
2)Did the termination harm Ward? The jury answered Yes.
3)Have the defendants shown that Ward would have been dismissed for
other reasons? The jury answered No. In some ways this was the most
important question. By answering No, the jury said not only that Ward's
First Amendment protected speech led to his firing, but that the
"finding" of the CU committee that Ward engaged in academic misconduct
was bogus, and there was no justification for firing him. As Ward said
to the press shortly after the verdict, and as was obvious all along,
this was a political motivated firing, and the jury in their verdict
said as much.
The jury awarded one dollar. But as David Lane, Ward's primary attorney,
had said all along, this was never about money, it was about justice and
vindication for Ward, and that's what the jury gave him.
Whether Ward will get reinstated is now apparently up to Judge Naves.
Attorneys have 30 days to prepare motions and then he'll make a decision.