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Part of the campaign to silence dissent on college campuses
Why is the right after Ward Churchill?

August 11, 2006 | Page 6

DANA CLOUD, who was listed by right-winger David Horowitz as one of the 101 "most dangerous academics" in the U.S., reports on the campaign against University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill.

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RIGHT-WING witch-hunters have University of Colorado professor of ethnic studies Ward Churchill in their sights. But progressive academics and activists have rallied in his support as the right tries to get Churchill fired.

A University of Colorado faculty panel and committee on "research misconduct" recommend that Churchill, an outspoken critic of the U.S. government and scholar of American Indian history, be fired. Citing supposed evidence of falsification and plagiarism in Churchill's work, the investigating panel claimed in a May 16 report that its censure of Churchill was about his scholarship and not his political views.

But the panel's obsessive scrutiny of Churchill was clearly the result of attacks by right-wingers like David Horowitz. Horowitz has called for the censure and firing of radical professors in his book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.

Conservatives--and many liberals--decried Churchill's remarks after the September 11, 2001 attacks, in which he compared workers at the World Trade Center to Nazi functionaries, or "little Eichmanns."

Churchill's comparison was wrong. However, the bulk of his post-9/11 remarks argued rightly that the attacks were an outgrowth of and response to U.S. imperialism in the Middle East.

In July, Teachers for Democracy--an initiative started by a group of professors on Horowitz's list--published a statement in defense of Churchill that recognizes the political basis of charges against him. Signed by more than 400 academics and others, the statement reads, "The actions of the University of Colorado in this case constitute a serious threat to academic freedom. They indicate that public controversy is dangerous and potentially lethal to the careers of those who engage it."

The University of Colorado investigation against Churchill has emboldened conservatives bent on persecuting left-wing academics. For example, the right-wing American Council of Trustees and Alumni published a report called "How Many Ward Churchills?" Their answer: "Ward Churchill is everywhere."

As John Wilson, author of Patriotic Correctness: Academic Freedom and Its Enemies, commented, "The Colorado committee is opening the door to a vast new right-wing witch-hunt on college campuses that conservatives could easily exploit across the country. If you don't like a professor's politics, simply file a complaint of 'research misconduct.'"

Indeed, a growing number of outspoken academic critics of the U.S. and Israel have faced university firing squads. These include Douglas Giles, a religion professor at Roosevelt University of Chicago; professor of Islam Kevin Barrett at the University of Wisconsin; the widely respected University of Michigan Middle East studies professor Juan Cole, who was blackballed from a job search at Yale; Nancy Rabinowitz, who lost control of a center at Hamilton College when the center invited Churchill to speak; Nicholas De Genova of Columbia University; Timothy Shortell, who lost a chairmanship at Brooklyn College over his comments about religion; and Stanford University Middle East studies scholar Joel Beinin.

We cannot allow these assaults on academic freedom and public expression of critical views to go unchallenged. As an anonymous blogger commented, "To the culture warriors on the right, Ward Churchill was simply the appetizer."

For more information, see the Teachers for Democracy petition in defense of Ward Churchill, which is open to signatures from intellectuals, journalists and others.

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