Colorado University Fires Controversial Professor Ward Churchill-Open letter to University Students

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”’Editor’s note: Colorado University professor Ward Churchill was sponsored by a collection of University of Hawaii professors and departments to give a speech at the university on Feb. 22, 2005. During a press conference the day prior called by him and other Hawaii professors about alleged violations of his First Amendment Rights, Churchill refused to answer questions posed by Hawaii Reporter as to whether he lied to the University about his ethnicity (claiming he was an American Indian) to gain quicker tenure or to add credibility to his published works. He also refused to answer questions as to whether he had plagiarized materials, calling the press conference to an immediate halt. Shortly after storming away from reporters, he returned back to the press in a rage, and yelled at reporters who challenged him. At that time, he claimed he was a member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. The Indian group disputes this in a letter published soon after he made these claims in Hawaii. See it here: “United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Disputes CU Professor Ward Churchill’s Claims He is One of Them” After two years of investigation into Churchill, some of which was sparked by his statements in Hawaii, he was fired on Tuesday.”’

TO: CU-Boulder Students


FROM: Office of the President


DATE: 07/24/07

SUBJECT: Communication from President Hank Brown on the Board of Regents Vote

Dear Students of the University of Colorado,

The Board of Regents today voted to accept my recommendation to dismiss
Professor Ward Churchill from the faculty.

I made the recommendation for the good of the university. CU’s success depends
upon its reputation for academic integrity. A public research university such
as ours requires public faith that each faculty member’s professional
activities and search for truth are conducted according to the high standards
on which CU’s reputation rests.

We are accountable to those who have a stake in the university: the people of
Colorado who contribute $200 million annually in tax dollars, the federal
entities that provide some $640 million annually in research funding, the
donors who gave us more than $130 million this year to enhance academic
quality, the alumni who want to maintain the value of their degrees, the
faculty and staff who expect their colleagues to act with integrity, and the
students who trust that faculty who teach them meet the high professional
standards of the university and the profession.

Given the record of the case and findings of Professor Churchill’s faculty
peers, I determined that allowing him to remain on the faculty would cast a
shadow on our reputation for academic integrity.

Throughout the case, we have adhered to shared governance procedures as
determined by the CU Faculty Senate Constitution and Bylaws and adopted by the
Board of Regents. During the course of two-plus years, Professor Churchill
presented his position in writing, in person, with his attorney and with
witnesses of his choosing. He was afforded full due process.

More than 20 tenured faculty members (from CU and other universities) on three
separate panels conducted a thorough review of his work and found that the
evidence shows Professor Churchill engaged in research misconduct, and that it
required serious sanction. The record of the case shows a pattern of serious,
repeated and deliberate research misconduct that falls below the minimum
standard of professional integrity, including fabrication, falsification,
improper citation and plagiarism. No university can abide such serious academic

Professor Churchill fabricated historical events and sought to support his
fabrications by manufacturing articles under other names. His publications show
more than just sloppy citations or using the work of others without crediting
them. The Investigative Committee of the Standing Committee on Research
Misconduct found multiple instances of falsification, fabrication and
plagiarism. Any student engaging in such a wide range of academic misconduct
would be seriously sanctioned. We should hold our faculty to a high standard of

While Professor Churchill’s peers on the faculty panels were unanimous in
finding research misconduct, views on the appropriate sanction varied. Some
faculty recommended dismissal while others suggested a less severe penalty. My
obligation as president is to recommend to the Board of Regents an appropriate
sanction that is for the good of the university.

Some on the Boulder campus and beyond claim Professor Churchill was singled out
because of public condemnation of his writing about September 11, 2001. They
see this case as a referendum on academic freedom. The university determined
early in the process that his speech was not at issue, but that his research
was. The prohibition against research misconduct extends to all faculty,
regardless of their political views. We cannot abandon our professional
standards and exempt faculty members from being accountable for the integrity
of their research simply because their views are controversial.

Professor Churchill’s activities not only run counter to the essence of
academic freedom, but also threaten its foundation. Academic freedom is
intended to protect the exploration and teaching of unpopular, even
controversial ideas. But that pursuit must be accompanied by the standards of
the profession. Academic freedom does not protect research misconduct. After
his research misconduct was identified, Professor Churchill did not admit any
errors or come forward to correct the record, as is expected in the profession.

CU’s most important asset is its academic reputation. Professor Churchill’s
actions reflect poorly on the University of Colorado, but we will not let the
research misconduct of one individual tarnish our reputation. Our faculty
members take pride in their work and demonstrate their respect for the high
standards of their profession and this university day in and day out. Professor
Churchill’s research misconduct is an affront to those who conduct themselves
with integrity.

We will remain accountable to those who have high expectations of Colorado’s
flagship university. And our faculty will remain true to high professional
standards to ensure our reputation for academic integrity remains intact.

”’Hank Brown is President of Colorado University.”’

”’To read the CU-Boulder Chancellor’s letter, go to:”’ “Chancellor of CU-Boulder Sends Message to Students Regarding Ward Churchill’s Dismissal”

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