[OPE-L] Fw: [RPA-LIST] OPEN LETTER: re Ward Churchill

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Tue Mar 08 2005 - 20:56:01 EST

OPEN LETTER: re Ward ChurchillIf list members would like I will provide links to the basic documents on line regarding Ward Churchill. 


----- Original Message ----- 
From: Phil Gasper 
Sent: Monday, March 07, 2005 2:21 PM
Subject: [RPA-LIST] OPEN LETTER: re Ward Churchill

Please forward to colleagues


An Open Letter From Concerned Academics

March 2, 2005

URGENT:  The University of Colorado Board of Regents will be making its recommendations about Ward Churchill in the week of March 7.

We call on all those who teach and research at colleges and universities to raise their voices in opposition to this inquisition.  Sign and act on this open letter.  Circulate it widely.  Inform the media.

As an immediate step, we call on our colleagues to pass emergency resolutions in faculty and professional associations and send them to the University of Colorado Board of Regents. We offer the following as a template for such resolutions:

  Resolved, that the attempt, escalated by government authority, to fire Ward Churchill and the trial by media which he is undergoing amount to a serious assault on dissent, critical inquiry, and academic freedom, and a heightening of the repressive atmosphere in American society overall.  This attack is intolerable and must stop now.  The precedents already set in this case - that a professor can be publicly pilloried and threatened with dismissal for what he writes - must not be allowed to stand.  The University of Colorado Board of Regents must drop any effort to fire Churchill, cease its spurious investigation into his body of work and repudiate its actions up to now; and all colleges and universities must reaffirm, in word and deed, their commitment to defend critical thinking.

The past month has witnessed a chilling turn in American political and intellectual life.  Ward Churchill, a tenured professor and former chair of the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Colorado, has been made the object of an unprecedented nationwide attack for an essay he wrote three years ago.  Two governors, including the governor of Colorado, have called for his firing.  The national and local media have not only misrepresented his work and views, but have increasingly vilified and slandered Ward Churchill himself.  Some of Churchill's speaking engagements have been cancelled.  Death threats have been made against him.  In response, the University of Colorado Board of Regents not only "apologized" for Churchill's remarks - itself an utterly gratuitous and inappropriate action - but initiated an investigation into his entire body of work to search for mistakes and supposed evidence of "fraud."  During the week of March 7, the Board of Regents will conclude its 30-day review of all of Churchill's writings and statements.

One must go back to the "scoundrel time" of the McCarthy years to find anything even close to this.  And now, as an unmistakable sign of what this portends, just a week ago the University of Colorado at Boulder announced an investigation into campus records to make sure that every faculty member has actually signed his or her state-required loyalty oath! 

All this is intolerable and must be reversed--immediately.

To be clear: the issues here have nothing to do with the quality of Ward Churchill's scholarship or his professional credentials. However one views his choice of words or specific arguments, he is being put in the dock solely for his radical critique of U.S. history and present-day policy in the wake of the events of September 11, 2001.  Apparently, 9/11 is now the third rail of American intellectual life: to critically probe into its causes and to interrogate the international role of the United States is treated as heresy; those inquiring can be denied forums, careers, and even personal safety.  And now Churchill's persecutors have gone further, repeatedly ridiculing his scholarly argumentation that the United States committed genocide against the indigenous people of this continent, and that the FBI systematically attempted to disrupt and destroy the movements and leaders of the 1960s.  Rather than debate or disprove such theses, Churchill's attackers attempt to render them beyond the pale of respectable discourse.  Through all this, new ground rules are being established: any criticism or even questioning of the institutional foundations of the United States, or of the motives and interests behind its policies, will be treated as essentially treasonous.  Left unopposed, this trajectory will lead to a situation of uncontested indoctrination enforced by the state.

The Churchill case is not an isolated incident but a concentrated example of a well-orchestrated campaign launched in the name of  "academic freedom" and "balance" which in fact aims to purge the universities of more radical thinkers and oppositional thought generally, and to create a climate of intimidation.  While the right-wing claim that the universities are "left-wing dictatorships" is specious beyond belief, it is unfortunately true that the campus remains one of the few surviving refuges of critical thinking and dissent in this country.  This is something to defend and strengthen.

It would be hard to overstate the serious nature of what has already happened, let alone what it would mean should the Regents fire Churchill.  If this assault on academe succeeds, the consequences for American society as a whole will be nothing short of disastrous.

The response from the academic world has thus far fallen short of what is required.  Voices have been raised in opposition, but many have been intimidated.  What is needed is an outpouring of faculty resolutions condemning this witch-hunt. Teach-ins.  Protests.

We propose that emergency faculty resolutions be passed and sent to the University of Colorado Board of Regents (secretary: millie.cortez@colorado.edu, cc: EthnicStudies@colorado.edu) and major media outlets.  We further propose that if the Colorado authorities continue their persecution of Churchill, we mount major nationally coordinated protests on campuses all over America - and internationally - as soon as possible, and that we begin to join efforts to reverse this dangerous direction in American political and intellectual life

The hour is very late; this case is nothing less than a watershed. We must act, and act now.

Initial Signatories:

Steven P. Best, Chair, Department of Philosophy, University of Texas-El Paso

Henry A. Giroux, Global Television Network Chair Professor in English and Communications, McMaster University

Ruth Y. Hsu, Associate Professor of English, University of Hawai'i at Manoa

Alan Jones, Dean of Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Pitzer College

Bruce Lincoln, Caroline E. Haskell Professor of the History of Religions, University of Chicago

Raymond Lotta, author and lecturer

Henry Silverman, Professor and Chairperson Emeritus, Michigan State University

Immanuel Wallerstein, Yale University

Allen W. Wood, Professor, Department of Philosophy, Stanford University



Robert M. Baum, Director of African Studies, Iowa State University

Prasenjit Duara, Chair, Department of History, University of Chicago

Allen F. Roberts, Director, James S. Coleman African Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles


E-mail this letter to colleagues, as well as people and institutions in other walks of life. Please get back to us with your ideas and let us know what you are doing. Send us copies of resolutions and statements. Add your name to this Open Letter.

E-mail to:  criticalthinking@pitzer.edu

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