Friday, February 04, 2005

Ward Churchill's Assumed Identity

If you've followed this tempest in a teapot, you know that Professor Ward Churchill, who recently resigned as Chairman of his dept. at the Univ. of Colorado, is under review by the Board of Regents, largely because of statements from an essay after 9/11 and its views of the victims of the World Trade Center attack.

Churchill calls them ..."busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd really be interested in hearing about it."

Apparently, Churchill either didn't know or care that restaurant workers, teachers, children, and maintenance crews- Innocents and Everyman- occupied the buildings, too, but that's another argument.

This essay came to light after Churchill's invitation to appear at NY's Hamilton College. The president of the college withdrew the invite after local then national attention followed. She claimed security concerns, though many suspect the reason for the cancellation was the alumni and student response to the prospect of unchallenged vitriol masquerading as discursive education. However, Hamilton is the once-lauded college whose president recently tried to install a convicted member of the Weather Underground in a paid chair as "activist in residence."

Now, people are arguing over whether Churchill should be fired from his primary U of C gig, based on their perception he'll be lionized by the extreme Left (which I thought had already occurred- thus his long, profitable run to this date) or concerns that it infringes on his First Amendment right to free speech. I think he's free to speak, but none of us speaks without consequences, and as a publicly funded university, U of C has some obligations to its taxpayers in the dispensation of funds. The question should be: does this guy represent the academic excellence that deserves a $100k tenure?

Let's examine his bailiwick, Ethnic Studies. The issues that pushes me toward firing is that Churchill seems to have lied about his identity in order to create credentials. From my internet digging (and I'd love a recent resume or CV if you've got one), he doesn't have a doctorate from anywhere, though in the past, he has claimed kinship with various American Indian tribes. There's a record of honorary tribesmanship, also given to non-Indian Bill Clinton, but none of his claimed kin register him or his blood relatives as tribal members. If I claim to be French to get a job teaching French identity and culture, and it turns out I lied, isn't that important?

Churchill has repeatedly dismayed Indian nations by assuming the mantle of activist for their concerns, and they actively seek to detach him from his fraudulent persona and his attendant spokesmanship. Read the article from Indian Country Today and decide whether Ward Churchill belongs on any Ethnic Studies faculty.

Here's a letter from the American Indian Movement Grand Governing Council

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