WASHINGTON, DC—The majority on a University of Colorado panel has rightly recommended the firing of ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill for research misconduct. But, according to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, the committee did something even more important in calling for major reform of the way CU hires professors.
“It should be no surprise that, after a full and fair review, the majority of this new committee thinks Ward Churchill’s record of gross fabrications and plagiarism merits his dismissal,” ACTA president Anne Neal said. “What is truly remarkable is the committee’s call for broader reform, which is needed not just at CU but nationwide. The reason: Too many on our faculties are, like Churchill, propagandists first and professors second.”
In addition to addressing Churchill’s case, the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct called on CU to ensure that existing internal procedures adequately identify violations of accepted scholarly standards at both the hiring and performance review levels.
“The panel should be commended,” said Neal, “for realizing the important institutional need to assess much more closely and systematically than they have yet done whether professors are teaching and researching responsibly.”
Just last month, ACTA issued a report entitled How Many Ward Churchills?, placing Ward Churchill in context. Using publications and websites available to students, parents and taxpayers, the study concludes that “throughout American higher education, professors are using their classrooms to push political agendas in the name of teaching students to think critically.”
The ACTA report calls on colleges and universities to “take steps to guarantee a proper balance between students’ academic freedom to learn and professors’ academic freedom to teach, research, and publish” and to demand that “colleges and universities amend their questionable practices and begin fulfilling their professional obligations.”
“Academic freedom is not insulation from oversight or accountability,” said Neal. “It does not license professors to ignore their duties to teach and research responsibly and it most certainly does not mean institutions or individuals are exempt from scrutiny and judgment.”
ACTA’s study offers a variety of concrete steps institutions can undertake to ensure a vibrant learning environment including: faculty post-tenure review; a self-study to assess the atmosphere in the classrooms; review of hiring and promotion practices to ensure that scholarship and teaching—not ideological litmus tests—are the foundation for lifelong job security; and hiring of administrators who are committed to intellectual diversity and then evaluated according to that commitment.
The report calls on “students, parents, alumni and trustees … to demand better information about what is happening in classrooms across America and more accountability from the colleges and universities they support.”
ACTA is a national education nonprofit dedicated to academic freedom, academic excellence and accountability.