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Warding Off a Black Cloud


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You know the disappointment you get watching the Super Bowl: all that hype and an awful game.

That’s kind of what it was like watching the proceedings that led to professor Ward Churchill being dismissed last month by the University of Colorado, except I was forced into watching it on my tiny computer screen instead of a 48-inch LCD flatscreen. The CU regents marched into the public hall after spending a day behind closed doors, made a motion and dismissed the embattled professor by an 8 to 1 vote. It took three minutes, maybe.

Nearly three years of controversy halted with a simple “All in favor” of firing the tenured ethnic studies professor and the quick “Aye” vote. No discussion followed. They just got up and left. About the only entertaining piece of watching the live webcast were the handful of students who predictably began a relatively subdued protest.

A few booed. Others shouted rudimentary profanity. One said, “That’s the end of CU.” Newsflash, the university isn’t going anywhere. It’d be nice if this could all blow away. But it’s far from over, and the black eye in Boulder will still be swelling for months to come.

This story is in the state courts now. It took less than 24 hours for Churchill to file a first amendment suit against CU. “I’m not going anywhere,” he stated to numerous media sources.

I would have been at the firing in person, except I am sicker of this story than the latest, greatest breaks in the Jon Bennett Ramsey case. Why is it that all the media-soaked stories in Boulder seem to drag on? (And yes, I see the irony of me saying this and typing about it.)

In case you’ve been hiding under some brush in eastern Erie, here’s the quick history blast: Ward compared victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to Adolf Eichmann, a notorious Nazi. Four years later, it made national headlines. Accusations started flying about his crackpot theories followed by claims that he lifted others’ work and passed it as his own. Regents suggested the tenured Churchill be suspended a year without pay, the ACLU said not so fast. University prez Hank Brown called for his ouster.

Many will bemoan the move, saying it violates free speech laws and will hurt CU in the long run in recruiting top professors who fear their tenure will mean nothing.

Hogwash.

The bottom line is this cloud needs to move far, far away from Boulder. Right over Fort Collins would be nice. The massive controversy surrounding CU football didn’t dissipate until all involved (the president, AD and coach) were canned.

Churchill has plenty of fans, but he’s done more harm to CU than good lately.

His position paper on 9/11 brought up great points—however outlandish—for discussion in a university setting. But between the negative attention it received and the plagiarism claims, his stay is as welcome as John Mark Karr’s was.

Tenure is noble and helps attract some of the finest minds to college campuses. But there has to be a limit to job security. Show of hands, how many of you have “tenure” at your job; enough so that you really cannot be fired for anything short of homicide?

Thought so.

When you tarnish your employer’s image, you need to be shown the door. I know I’d be kicked through it if I embarrassed my publisher on this page.

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