Precinct 333

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Ward Churchill Watch -- The Road To Tenure

More evidence has been uncovered as to how Ward Churchill was granted tenure at Colorado. College of Arts and Sciences Dean Charles Middleton had been unable to pressure either the political science or sociology departments into granting Churchill tenure, so he turned to the Department of Communications, apparently placing pressure on the faculty member in line to be the next department chair.

In a memo to the communication faculty, Michael Pacanowsky, who was in line to become chairman, said Churchill needed to join a department, since the program that sponsored his Native American Studies courses did not have the authority to grant tenure.

"Ward's file was circulated to sociology and political science, and they did not agree to roster him in their departments," Pacanowsky wrote in an e-mail dated Jan. 10, 1991. "Because Ward's graduate degree, an MA, was in communications, we were contacted next."

Pacanowsky goes on to say that Churchill's work was not "mainstream in our discipline," but by appointing Churchill, the department would be "making our own contribution to increasing the cultural diversity on campus (Ward is a native American)."

In other words, the reason for the granting of tenure wasn't scholarship, wasn't fitness, it was ethnic. The university didn't want to lose their pet Native American to another school, so they had to dupe some department into taking him. And it is now clear that the ethnicity claim was a fraud. And it appears that pressure was exerted (who knows, maybe a threat to veto the newly selected department chair) to put Churchill on the faculty.

It seems clear that folks were uncomfortable with having him join the department, but felt obligated to do so because of the need for "diversity" at the university.

Pacanowsky said he was "overwhelmed" by the position in which he found himself.

While he saw the benefit of increasing ethnic diversity on campus, "Ward does not seem to me to be the kind of person who fits our mold of a department focused on interpersonal and organizational communication," Pacanowsky wrote.

Three other faculty members from the department have also said increasing campus diversity was a factor in granting tenure to Churchill.

After the communications faculty voted to grant tenure to Churchill, Middleton wrote a letter of thanks to outgoing Chairman John Bowers.

"I am extremely pleased with the results of the vote of the communication department on Ward Churchill's appointment to the faculty," wrote Middleton on Feb. 12, 1991.

"I think that the decision will both enable the department to contribute to the broad agendas of the college and the campus with respect to the study of ethnicity and race in America, and will also give you a dynamic colleague whose work, though not in the core direction in which the department is going at this time, will nonetheless relate to it in a challenging and stimulating manner."

The documents reveal that Middleton had been thinking about offering tenure to Churchill as early as November 1990.

So we again see the impact of race-based hiring. An unqualified individual was forced upon an unwilling department after two others, more closely related to his field, rejected him. That didn't set off warning bells about the candidate, it apparently alerted Dean Middleton that he needed to engage in more explicit hardball tactics to get his man tenure.

I've not been a big advocate of firing Ward Churchill. But I think that the evidence at hand, given that it shows a pattern of irregularities in the granting of tenure, requires that the decision be revisited. Based upon the evidence publicly available, Churchill should probably be stripped of his tenure and required to submit to a new tenure review, based upon the totality of his scholarship and the relative merits of his case. And it is my belief that, in doing so, the resulting decision will be that he not be granted tenure.


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