A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Oh THAT Ivory Tower, Churchill all by his loneself

Well, it was titled an open letter, so I'm providing it to a wider audience. I got this email just today and it brought all my shock and outrage over the defense of Ward Churchill by faculty back to the forefront. I had thought I'd let the topic rest, maybe forever, but then... well... THIS:

Please forward to colleagues


An Open Letter From Concerned Academics

March 2, 2005

URGENT: The University of Colorado Board of Regents will be making its recom-mendations about Ward Churchill in the week of March 7.

We call on all those who teach and research at colleges and universities to raise their voices in opposition to this inquisition. Sign and act on this open letter. Circulate it widely. Inform the media.

As an immediate step, we call on our colleagues to pass emergency resolutions in faculty and professional associations and send them to the University of Colorado Board of Regents. We offer the following as a template for such resolutions:

Resolved, that the attempt, escalated by government authority, to fire Ward Churchill and the trial by media which he is undergoing amount to a serious assault on dissent, critical inquiry, and academic freedom, and a heightening of the repressive atmosphere in American society overall. This attack is intolerable and must stop now. The precedents already set in this case – that a professor can be publicly pilloried and threatened with dismissal for what he writes – must not be allowed to stand. The Universityof Colorado Board of Regents must drop any effort to fire Churchill, cease its spurious investigation into his body of work and repudiate its actions up to now; and all colleges and universities must reaffirm, in word and deed, their commitment to defend critical thinking.

The past month has witnessed a chilling turn in American political and intellectual life. Ward Churchill, a tenured professor and former chair of the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Colorado, has been made the object of an unprecedented nationwide attack for an essay he wrote three years ago. Two governors, including the governor of Colorado, have called for his firing. The national and local media have not only misrepresented his work and views, but have increasingly vilified and slandered Ward Churchill himself. Some of Churchill’s speaking engagements have been cancelled. Death threats have been made against him. In response, the University of Colorado Board of Regents not only “apologized” for Churchill’s remarks – itself an utterly gratuitous and inappropriate action – but initiated an investigation into his entire body of work to search for mistakes and supposed evidence of “fraud.” During the week of March 7, the Board of Regents will conclude its 30-day review of all of Churchill’s writings and statements.

One must go back to the “scoundrel time” of the McCarthy years to find anything even close to this. And now, as an unmistakable sign of what this portends, just a week ago the University of Colorado at Boulder announced an investigation into campus records to make sure that every faculty member has actually signed his or her state-required loyalty oath!

All this is intolerable and must be reversed--immediately.

To be clear: the issues here have nothing to do with the quality of WardChurchill’s scholarship or his professional credentials. However one views his choice of words or specific arguments, he is being put in the dock solely for his radical critique of U.S. history and present-day policy in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001. Apparently, 9/11 is now the third rail ofAmerican intellectual life: to critically probe into its causes and to interrogate the international role of the United States is treated as heresy; those inquiring can be denied forums, careers, and even personal safety. And now Churchill’s persecutors have gone further, repeatedly ridiculing his scholarly argumentation that the United States committed genocide against the indigenous people of this continent, and that the FBI systematically attempted to disrupt and destroy the movements and leaders of the 1960s. Rather than debate or disprove such theses, Churchill’s attackers attempt to render them beyond the pale of respectable discourse. Through all this, new ground rules are being established: any criticism or even questioning of the institutional foundations of the United States, or of the motives and interests behind its policies, will be treated as essentially treasonous. Left unopposed, this trajectory will lead to a situation of uncontested indoctrination enforced by the state.

The Churchill case is not an isolated incident but a concentrated example of a well-orchestrated campaign launched in the name of “academic freedom” and “balance” which in fact aims to purge the universities of more radical thinkers and oppositional thought generally, and to create a climate of intimidation. While the right-wing claim that the universities are “left-wing dictatorships” is specious beyond belief, it is unfortunately true that the campus remains one of the few surviving refuges of critical thinking and dissent in this country. This is something to defend and strengthen.

It would be hard to overstate the serious nature of what has already happened, let alone what it would mean should the Regents fire Churchill. If this assault on academe succeeds, the consequences for American society as a whole will be nothing short of disastrous. The response from the academic world has thus far fallen short of what is required. Voices have been raised in opposition, but many have been intimidated. What is needed is an outpouring of faculty resolutions condemning this witch-hunt. Teach-ins. Protests.

We propose that emergency faculty resolutions be passed and sent to the University of Colorado Board of Regents (secretary:millie.cortez@colorado.edu, cc: EthnicStudies@colorado.edu) and major media outlets. We further propose that if the Colorado authorities continue their persecution of Churchill, we mount major nationally coordinated protests on campuses all over America – and internationally – as soon as possible, and that we begin to join efforts to reverse this dangerous direction in American political and intellectual life

The hour is very late; this case is nothing less than a watershed. We must act, and act now.

Initial Signatories:

Steven P. Best, Chair, Department of Philosophy, University of Texas-El Paso

Henry A. Giroux, Global Television Network Chair Professor in English and Communications, McMaster University

Ruth Y. Hsu, Associate Professor of English, University of Hawai'i at Manoa

Alan Jones, Dean of Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs, PitzerCollege

Bruce Lincoln, Caroline E. Haskell Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago

Raymond Lotta, author and lecturer

Henry Silverman, Professor and Chairperson Emeritus, Michigan State University

Immanuel Wallerstein, Yale University

Allen W. Wood, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Stanford University


Robert M. Baum, Director of African Studies, Iowa State University

Rosalyn Baxandall, Chair American Studies/Media and Communications, StateUniversity of New York at Old Westbury

Prasenjit Duara, Chair, Department of History, University of Chicago

James C. Faris, Professor Emeritus Anthropology, Director Emeritus, Universityof Connecticut Program in Middle East Languages and Area Studies

H. Bruce Franklin, John Cotton Dana Professor of English and American Studies, RutgersUniversity-Newark

Philip Gasper, Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy & Religion, Notre Dame deNamur University

Roger S. Gottlieb, Professor of Philosophy, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA

Edward S. Herman, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Michael Meeropol, Chair, Department of Economics, Western New England College

Nancy S. Rabinowitz, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY Radical Philosophy Association

Allen F. Roberts, Director, James S. Coleman African Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles

Howard Ross, Dean, College of Letters and Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

Mark Selden, Professor or Sociology and History, Binghamton University


Hadley Ajana, associate faculty, U.S. History, Mira Costa Community College, Oceanside, CA

Douglas Allen, Department of Philosophy, University of Maine

Sze Wei Ang, Department of Comparative Literature, Cornell University

Elisabeth Arnould-Bloomfield, Assistant Professor, University of Colorado, Boulder

Ron Baiman, Institute of Government and Public Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago

Asatar Bair, PhD, Economist and Teacher, City College of San Francisco

Tani E. Barlow, Professor, Departments of History and Women's Studies, University of Washington

Bruce Barrett, Assistant Professor of Family Medicine, University of Wisconsin- Madison School of Medicine

Jennifer Leilani Basham, Instructor, Hawaiian Language, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Carole Biewener, Professor of Economics and Women's Studies, Simmons College, Boston, MA

Marc Bilodeau, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

Peter Bohmer, faculty in political economy, The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA

Paul Boisvert, Professor of Mathematics, Oakton Community College, DesPlaines, IL

George Caffentzis, Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Southern Maine

Kevin Caffrey, Preceptor, Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences, University of Chicago

Howard Campbell, Dept. of Sociology & Anthropology, University of Texas-El Paso

Edward E. Daub, Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Carlos Davidson, Department of Environmental Studies, California State University, Sacramento

Lawrence Davidson, Professor of History, West Chester University, West Chester, PA

Diane Davis, University of Texas at Austin

Kathleen de la Pena McCook, Distinguished University Professor, Library and Information Science, University of South Florida

Michael Dietler, Associate Professor of Anthropology, The University ofChicago

Anne Donchin, Professor Emerita, Indiana University, Indianapolis

Justin A. Elardo, Senior Lecturer – Economics, Ohio State University

Kathy E. Ferguson, Professor, Department of Political Science, Professor and Director, Women's Studies Program, University of Hawaii

Manzar Foroohar, Professor of History, California Polytechnic State

Helen Fox, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Michael Joseph Francisconi, Associate Professor Department of History, Philosophy, and Social Science, University of Montana Western, Dillon, MT

Cynthia Franklin, Associate Professor, English Dept., University of Hawaii

H. Bruce Franklin, John Cotton Dana Professor of English and American Studies, Rutgers University-Newark

Alexander Gelley, University of California, IrvineRoger S. Gottlieb, Professor of Philosophy, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, MA

Angela Harris, University of California at Berkeley, School of Law

Robert L. Ivie, Professor, Department of Communication and Culture, Indiana University, Bloomington

Daniel Jaffee, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Pranav Jani, Assistant Professor, English, Ohio State University, Columbus OH

Clive S. Kessler, Emeritus Professor, School of Sociology & Anthropology, UNSW, Sydney, Australia

Vinay Lal, Associate Professor of History, UCLA

Haiyan Lee, Assistant Professor, East Asian Languages & Civilizations, University of Colorado, Boulder

Richard Leppert, Fesler-Lambery Professor of Humanities, University of Minnesota

Philip E. Lewis, Professor of Romance Studies, Cornell University Emma Lierley, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Julio Lopez , Professor of Economics, Universidad Nacional Autonoma De Mexico

Stephen Macek, Assistant Professor, Speech Communication, North Central College, Naperville, IL

Holly Maguigan, Professor of Clinical Law, New York University School of Law, Co-President, Society of American Law Teachers

Glenn Man, Professor of English, University of Hawai'i

Bill Martin, Professor of Philosophy, DePaul University, Chicago

Blair McCracken, Professor of Clinical Psychology, Notre Dame de Namur University

Maureen McDonnell, Campus Minister, Edgewood College

Peter McLaren, Professor, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles

M. Melkonian, Department of Economics, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY

Eduardo Mendieta, Philosophy Department, Stony Brook University

Peter Michelson, Professor, English & Creative Writing, University of Colorado, Boulder

Carol Montgomery, Assoc. Prof. of Speech and Communication, LaGuardia Community College, Long Island City, NY

Teresa Montseny, Director, Avanzando, TRiO Student Support Services, Cochise College, Douglas, AZ

Timothy Murray, Professor, Departments of Comparative Literature and English, Cornell University

Mechthild Nagel, SUNY Cortland, NY

Sadu Nanjundiah, Professor, Physics, Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, CT

Mukoma Wa Ngugi, English Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Thomas Pepper, University of Minnesota

Jacqueline Peterson, Professor of History, Washington State University Vancouver

Richard Peterson, Philosophy, Michigan State University

Julio Pino, Associate Professor of History, Kent State University

Nancy S. Rabinowitz, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY

Gene Ray, Department of Art and Art History, University of Hawai'i at Manoa

Harry A. Reed, Professor Emeritus, Dept of History Michigan State University, Adjunct Faculty Dept of Ethnic Studies, Colorado University-Boulder

Garth Reese, School of Religion, Claremont Graduate University

Ross Reykdal, University of Wisconsin - Madison

Florence Wagman Roisman, Michael McCormick Professor of Law, Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis

Avital Ronell, professor, writer, New York University

Stuart Rosewarne, Political Economy, School of Economics and Political Science, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia

Howard Ross, Dean, College of Letters and Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

Patricia Rubio, Professor of Spanish, Skidmore College

Naoki Sakai, Professor, Asian Studies and Comparative Literature, Cornell University

Susan Sánchez-Casal, Associate Professor of Latino and Women’s Studies, Hamilton College, Clinton, New York

David Schweickart, Professor of Philosophy, Loyola University Chicago

Helen Scott, Assistant Professor, English Dept., University of Vermont

James C. Scott, Political Science and Anthropology, Yale University

Mark Selden, Professor or Sociology and History, Binghamton University

Anna Marie Smith, Associate Professor, Government, Cornell University

Martha Smithey, Director, Women’s Studies Program, University of Texas-El Paso

Gina M. Soter, University of Michigan

John Stevenson, Professor of Philosophy, Columbia College, Chicago

Hollis Stewart, Pasadena Community College, Pasadena, CA

John Hayakawa Torok, Esq., Doctoral Candidate, Ethnic Studies, U.C. Berkeley

Jean Yamasaki Toyama, Professor of French, University of Hawai'i at Manoa

Harry van der Linden, Professor of Philosophy, Butler University

Tom Weisskopf, Professor of Economics, University of Michigan

Nancy Welch, Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Vermont

Michael Wreszin Prof Emeritus, City University of New York

Chi-ming Yang, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Fordham University

Yavuz Yasar, University of Denver

Elliott Young, Associate Professor of History, Lewis & Clark College

E-mail this letter to colleagues, as well as people and institutions in other walks of life. Please get back to us with your ideas and let us know what you are doing. Send us copies of resolutions and statements. Add your name to this Open Letter.

E-mail to: criticalthinking@pitzer.edu

Wow. I mean really, wow. It's hard to overstate the wow factor in that letter. It's really quite remarkable. In one letter, everyone who opposes Ward Churchill and his rants is compared to:
  • The Inquisition (Was I supposed to get thumbscrews when I started this blog?)
  • McCarthyism (Isn't the point of McCarthyism that the condemnations be... umm... false?)
  • A witch-hunt (Was I supposed to get a torch or pitchfork when I started this blog?)

Plus, I'm apparently part of Tim Robbins' Chill Wind because I happen to find Ward Churchill personally and professionally offensive, believe that he reflects badly on all of academia, and that he's a lousy scholar and writer to boot. But perhaps I should change my viewpoint, as this is a "watershed" moment, and no doubt Karl Rove's flying monkeys are fueled and ready for take off if the UC Board of Regents attempts to fire Churchill.

And still many academics can't figure out why a lot of people think they're arrogant, elitist, left-wingers with little or no real connection to the reality most Americans live in. Huh. I wonder why that could be?

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