Wednesday, May 17, 2006
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Chronicle of Higher Education: The Ward Churchill Verdict

Ward Churchill committed multiple, “deliberate” acts of academic misconduct, according to a review by a faculty panel…


While the panel was unanimous in its findings about Churchill’s conduct, it was divided about whether he should lose his tenured position as professor — as politicians and many others have been demanding for more than a year. Three of the panel’s five members believe that the violations of academic standards are severe enough to make dismissal “not an inappropriate sanction.” But only one of those three members believes that dismissal is the “most appropriate sanction.” Two others favor suspension without pay for five years.

Two other members of the panel said that they did not believe that the violations were serious enough to merit dismissal. They recommend a suspension of two years without pay and say that they fear dismissal would “have an adverse effect on other scholars’ ability to conduct their research with due freedom.”

None of that is small potatoes.

Still, given the findings, I think that dismissal is a wholly appropriate punishment:

Among the violations that the committee found Churchill had committed were falsification, fabrication, plagiarism, failure to comply with established standard regarding author names on publications, and a “serious deviation from accepted practices in reporting results from research.” The committee also found that Churchill “was disrespectful of Indian oral traditions” in his writings about an 1837 smallpox epidemic.

If a scholar is found guilty of “falsification, fabrication, plagiarism” and so forth by a panel of peers, then it seems to me that depending on the volume of the offense, that dismissal is the only appropriate punishment.

I suspect that the man will find a way to make up for the lost revenue, however.

Churchill himself responds here. He decries the legitimacy of the investigation, but mounts no defense of plagiarism. I hate to tell him, but it doesn’t take an expect in any given field to be able to identify plagiarism.

Update: I note that James Joyner has also commented on this story. His comments made me consider that I ought to clarify that I long defended Churchill on the grounds of academic freedom–as far it pertained to his scholarship (written and oral), whether I thought it was tripe or not.

So, if one hasn’t read what I written on this topic (click and scroll here to get an idea), understand: I never thought that Churchill should have been disciplined for having far-out theories. I have argued that he wasn’t qualified for the post he held and argued that he had the academic freedom to write what he wrote. However, I have no tolerance for plagiarism and academic dishonesty.

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5 Responses to “The Ward Churchill: Deliberate Acts of Academic Misconduct”

  1. Honza Prchal Says:

    What, if anything, could such a man “teach” students that would be of value in molding them into intellectuals and adults?

  2. Unlocked Wordhoard Says:

    Churchill, Horowitz, Plagiarism, and Academic Free

    Steven Taylor’s distinction among three different issues — Churchill’s qualifications, Churchill’s academic freedom, and Churchill’s plagiarism — is exactly right, I think.

  3. Steve Plunk Says:

    Everyone has a right to “far-out theories”. Academics have a responsibility to do research and put those theories to a test. Churchill to failed support his wacky ideas with proper research and factual determinations.

    Our universities are based on the the search for truth and the teaching of truth. By abandoning that Churchill betrayed his students, his university, and academia. He should go in shame.

    Professors are given great responsibilty and power. Now we should see some accountability to go along with the perks.

  4. Jim Hu Says:

    What he did goes beyond failure to support wacky ideas with proper research and factual determinations. Failure to find support for our pet ideas happens all the time. It’s making up support that’s the problem…this would be just as bad if he was making up support for ideas that are not wacky.

  5. PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Recommendation: Fire Churchill Says:

    [...] ’s academic freedom, and do not think he should be fired for his rantings about 911, as I have said before, there is no doubt in my mind that he should be fired for these two egregious academic o [...]

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