Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Churchill Goes Down (Sort Of)

Prof. Ward Churchill's career will be negatively effected by the findings of UC Boulder's investigative committee concerning allegations of plagiarism and academic misconduct. But despite the damning findings, he will not be fired, and it's because as a tenured professor his mendacity is indulged by his employer.

The full report can be found here
, and is in itself a fascinating piece of historical research, even given the context of a judicial ruling. It is a searing indictment of Churchill's character and should be read in full. The key conclusions regarding his misconduct is this, from page 95 of the report (which also contains the citations given):

We have noted and discussed a number of distinct but related patterns of misconduct that deserve mention. One is an indifference to the proper attribution of scholarly work to its genuine author. This indifference has taken the form of misappropriation of the work of another, the attachment of the names of others to Professor Churchill's own work, and the use of uninformative titles such as "Institute of Natural Progress"” to muddy the assignment of credit and responsibility for work.233 The conventions of scholarly attribution are not empty forms of etiquette; they are central to the progress of scholarship and the accountability of the scholar. Professor Churchill's disregard for them is therefore troubling. We have also observed several instances in Professor Churchill's work of a willingness to make claims about legislation or historical events not supported by the evidence he cites or by any other evidence the Committee could locate.234 A related pattern is the employment of vague or obfuscating citation and reference practices. More serious still is the pattern of citing one's own work, disguised by its attribution to another living scholar in the same field, as authority for assertions and claims that lack independent support.235 We do not know whether these practices are the result of inadequate training or the desire to obscure the lack of support for his claims from other scholars and the historical record (we suspect the latter), but they make it difficult for the reader to verify or discredit his claims. Such practices are of particular concern because Professor Churchill has repeatedly stressed the importance of full documentation as a means of promoting dialogue.

Professor Churchill has, on more than one occasion, claimed that certain acts that appear to have been his were instead the responsibility of some other actor: his editor or publisher, his assistant, or his former wife and collaborator. In some cases we have not found these claims credible; in others we were unable to arrive at a judgment about their veracity. But apart from their plausibility, we have come to see these claims as emblems of a recurrent refusal to take responsibility for errors (whether or not abetted by some other person's act or omission), and a willingness to blame others for his troubles. In our view, this repeated behavior bears on a proper judgment about the seriousness of his misconduct.

If there is one crucial pattern that most affects our assessment, however, it is a pattern of failure to understand the difference between scholarship and polemic, or at least of behaving as though that difference does not matter. There are some signs that Professor Churchill does recognize the distinction: he correctly segregates the portion of his Curriculum Vitae that lists his publications into such categories as Books, Scholarly Essays (unrefereed), Scholarly Essays (refereed), Book Reviews, and Polemics. None of the writings discussed in this report appear as Polemics; it is the work he claims as scholarship that is the subject of this investigation. But the Committee has found repeated instances of his practice of fabricating details or ostensible written evidence to buttress his broader ideological arguments.236 While his general claims may be correct, it is unacceptable scholarship to create fictitious support for them.
Emphasis mine.

What also intrigued me is that only one of thecommitteemittee members recommended dismissal; the other four recommended suspension without pay for either 2 or 5 years. And whatever sanctions are applied, they will only take effect after further administrative procedures.

It is a kind of institutional madness that a person the committee found so thoroughly guilty of misconduct should be so well ensconced.

I was also intrigued by the committee's mention of the timing of the report (page 3):

The Committee notes that this investigation was only commenced after, and perhaps in response to, the public attack on Professor Churchill for his controversial publications.

The public "attacks" occurred only because Prof. Churchill exposed himself to be a petty, shallow, and malicious, so narcissistically anti-American that he could not distinguish the innocent victims of 9/11 from a Nazi war criminal. His comments screamed intellectual incompetence, and once this was exposed to the general public it would have been a dereliction of duty for the public university that employs him not to investigate his scholarship.

The handwringing of the committee and unneeded references to academic freedom betray their unwillingness to admit the actual context of their investigation. It is no different than a medical board investigating the qualifications and abilities of a surgeon who gives a speech that betrays an ignorance of basic anatomy.

It is a sorry thing that this man has been so successful in an American university, that no one noticed his incomeptence sooner.

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