Press Releases | Freedom of Expression

ACLU Wrong on Ward Churchill, ACTA Says

July 24, 2007

WASHINGTON, DC—Claims by the American Civil Liberties Union that Ward Churchill must keep his job for the sake of academic freedom—even though five duly-constituted groups of academics have examined his research and found troubling evidence of misconduct—are just plain wrong, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni said today.

“Ward Churchill is a poster boy for academic malfeasance, not academic freedom,” said ACTA president Anne D. Neal. “While claiming to protect academic freedom, the ACLU is making a mockery of it.”

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. When serious accusations of research misconduct surfaced, CU engaged in an investigation that is now entering its third year:

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.

In May 2007, Privilege and Tenure Committee 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.”

On May 29, CU president Hank Brown recommended to the Board of Regents that Churchill be fired.

The decision now rests with the Board of Regents, which is meeting today. The ACLU has just released a letter urging it not to dismiss Churchill.

“There is no bigger threat to academic freedom than those who think it should protect gross scholarly fraud,” Neal said. “That’s why Churchill deserves to go.”

As Neal—herself a First Amendment attorney—put it in a recent op-ed, academic freedom involves rights and responsibilities, not a license to make up facts:

The arguments of Churchill and his misguided defenders do—regrettably—arise from a basic conviction that academics should be free from accountability. They involve manipulating the term “academic freedom” in ways that undermine a concept of foundational importance to the academic enterprise. They amount to an attempt to turn the concept inside out—morphing what was originally a cluster of interlocking privileges and responsibilities centered on the public good into a justification for the false idea that academics have no obligation to the public at all.

The American Council of Trustees and Alumni is a non-profit, non-partisan, educational organization dedicated to academic freedom, academic quality, and accountability in higher education. ACTA has a national network of college and university trustees and alumni and has issued numerous reports 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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