Precinct 333

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Conflict Of Interest

Ward Churchill is now to be investigated for academic dishonesty. But will it be a fair investigation? That is open to question, since three of the twelve panel members have already publicly defended Churchill, and refuse to recuse themselves in the investigation.

Records and news stories show at least three of the 12 members of the committee have come out publicly supporting Churchill's rights or questioning the university's ability to discipline him after he made statements likening 9/11 victims to a top Nazi and calling for other attacks on the United States.

Steven Guberman, associate professor in education, was one of nearly 200 Boulder faculty members who signed a petition last month defending Churchill's right to speak and protesting the preliminary investigation that ended Thursday. The faculty then took out an ad in a local newspaper with the faculty names.

Guberman said he will not recuse himself because he believes he can be independent in judging Churchill's work.

"They are two separate issues," said Guberman, who was appointed two weeks ago to the misconduct committee. "One is about freedom of speech. The other is about research misconduct."

Two other committee members, law professor Richard Collins and physics professor Uriel Nauenberg, were quoted in articles about Churchill.

How biased are the committee members? Collins has already made it clear that only the most outrageous incompetence will do.

Collins recently told the CU faculty newspaper that the university would have to prove that Churchill was unfit for his job. For comparison, Collins said it would take evidence comparable to the hypothetical case of a math professor who repeatedly declared two plus two equals five.

"It's tough to sack him," Collins said.

Not, of course, that it is likely that action will be taken. No one at the university can recall a case in the last 20 years in which the standing committee has disciplined a professor. Given the statements of the members, it is unlikely that there will be any action taken now, despite the overwhelming evidence of academic misconduct that has emerged.


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