DENVER — Professor Ward Churchill’s 2001 essay that criticizes U.S. foreign policy and likens some victims in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to a Nazi architect of the Holocaust is protected under the First Amendment, a University of Colorado investigation found.
But allegations of plagiarism, research misconduct and misuse of others’ work are being referred to a Boulder campus faculty committee for further investigation, a process that could take up to seven months.
“Under the laws of the regents, investigation of research misconduct allegation is assigned to the faculty,” CU-Boulder interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano said during a Thursday afternoon press conference in the Tivoli Turnhalle at the Auraria Campus in Denver. “Therefore, I have decided to refer such allegations to the Boulder campus Standing Committee of Research Misconduct for further investigation, according to established procedures.”
The intense controversy over Churchill’s 2001 essay, “Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens,” erupted in February when a New York professor turned up the essay in routine research of Churchill, who was scheduled to speak at a university there.
In the essay, Churchill suggested that not all victims in the Sept. 11 attacks were innocent because they worked in economic and technology fields that fueled a government that engaged in foreign policies that touched off the terrorist attacks. He called the workers “little Eichmanns,” referring to Adolf Eichmann, the credited architect of the Holocaust.
The controversy in New York quickly hit Colorado, where calls for Churchill’s firing came down from the governor, state politicians and members of the public.
To manage the controversy, the CU Board of Regents appointed DiStefano to lead an investigation into Churchill’s body of work to determine if there was cause for dismissal.
“In conducting our review, we initially focused on allegations about professor Churchill’s conduct, speeches and writings,” DiStefano said at a press conference to release the details of the investigation. “During the course of the review, we received additional allegations, primarily in the area of research misconduct, or potential research conduct.”
Over the past few weeks, new allegations against Churchill have surfaced, including plagiarism of a Nova Scotia professor’s work and copying a painting of another artist in mirror image and signing the work as his own. A number of people also have said Churchill threatened them.
DiStefano said allegations of physical threats were outside of the university’s jurisdiction, and that referring the academic misconduct allegations to the faculty committee is all the university can do at this point. Questions that have arisen about Churchill’s ethnicity are also being bandied about as potential research fraud.
“In regard to the allegation of misrepresentation of ethnicity to gain credibility and audience for scholarship, we believe such representations may constitute research misconduct and failure to meet standards of professional integrity,” DiStefano said.
Churchill has defended the allegations one by one as they have come up.
He has said that it was long his understanding from his family that he has Native American blood in him. Russell Means, an American Indian Movement activist, said in February it is up to individual tribes to determine membership, noting that Churchill is “a full-blooded Indian leader.”
In early March, Churchill said, “I have two statements: One, I never plagiarized anybody; two, I didn’t threaten anybody.”
Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.