Press Releases | Freedom of Expression

Academic Freedom Wins Colorado

Churchill decision a victory for faculty who adhere to professional standards
May 29, 2007

WASHINGTON, DC—The University of Colorado administration’s conclusion that professor Ward Churchill should be fired is a victory for academic freedom and professional standards, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni said today. After more than two years of fact-finding, CU’s president, Hank Brown, recommended that Churchill be dismissed.

“CU had a serious obligation to respect Churchill’s due process rights and it did that,” said ACTA president Anne D. Neal. “Now, after a lengthy investigation uncovered clear academic misconduct, anything short of firing him would have been unthinkable.”

Churchill gained nationwide attention in 2005, when it was discovered that he had compared the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to Nazis. At that time, amid demands for his immediate firing, ACTA called upon CU to provide Churchill with academic due process. Faced with accusations of research misconduct, five duly-constituted groups of academics thereafter examined Churchill’s research and found troubling evidence of misconduct:

In March 2005, a review team announced its finding that the “allegations of plagiarism, misuse of others’ work and fabrication” against Churchill “may constitute research misconduct.”

In September 2005, the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct found that seven charges against Churchill merited “full investigation.”

In May 2006, after performing that investigation, the Investigative Committee of the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct released a 125-page report charging that Churchill “committed several forms of academic misconduct.”

In June 2006, a majority of the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct said in a report that Churchill should be dismissed for severe, repeated, deliberate, and harmful acts of scholarly misconduct. CU-Boulder’s interim chancellor agreed.

This month, the Privilege and Tenure Committee’s confidential report was leaked to the media. According to the Associated Press, it said Churchill’s work fell “below minimum standards of professional integrity and…requires severe sanctions” and that he “committed multiple acts of plagiarism, fabrication and falsification.”

After reviewing the evidence, Brown sustained the Boulder chancellor’s recommendation that Churchill be dismissed, in a letter dated Friday.

“This is not about dissent on campus,” ACTA’s Neal concluded. “Academics have a right to say whatever they want in the public forum. But academic freedom—which governs classroom speech and research—brings with it responsibility. And when professors fail to be responsible, they abuse the sacred trust we place in them, and sanctions are in order. President Brown’s decision is a victory for CU’s scholarly reputation and for all its faculty who do adhere to professional standards, perform rigorous research, and engage in sound scholarship.”

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, national organization dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality, and accountability. ACTA has a network of trustees and alumni around the country and has issued numerous reports on higher education, including The Vanishing Shakespeare, Intellectual Diversity: Time for Action, The Hollow Core, and Losing America’s Memory: Historical Illiteracy in the 21st Century.


Launched in 1995, we are the only organization that works with alumni, donors, trustees, and education leaders across the United States to support liberal arts education, uphold high academic standards, safeguard the free exchange of ideas on campus, and ensure that the next generation receives an intellectually rich, high-quality college education at an affordable price.

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