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Churchill Investigation "Finds" Academic Misconduct

Churchill investigation uncovers academic misconduct

Sara Burnett and Kevin Vaughan

From the Rocky Mountain News

A University of Colorado investigative
committee found deliberate and serious misconduct by
ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill, including
plagiarism, fabrication, and "serious deviation from
accepted practices in reporting results from
research," according to a report made public today.

The committee also noted Churchill was "disrespectful
of Indian oral traditions" when he wrote the U.S.
government distributed blankets infested with smallpox
to Mandan Indians in 1837 on the Upper Missouri River.

Three of the five members of the committee said the
transgressions were serious enough that CU could
revoke Churchill’s tenure and fire him. But two of
those three said the most appropriate sanction would
be a five-year suspension without pay.

The other two committee members said they were
"troubled by the circumstances under which these
allegations have been made," and "believe his
dismissal would have an adverse effect on other
scholars’ ability to conduct their research." Those
two recommended that Churchill be suspended without
pay for two years.

Research misconduct encompasses a spectrum of academic
wrongdoing - everything from plagiarism to fabrication
to falsification.

The committee also said it was concerned about the
timing and motives of the investigation, which was
launched amid public outcry over and essay Churchill
wrote about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The university knew Churchill was a "controversial
public intellectual" when he was given tenure in 1991,
the committee said in the report.

Last year, as the Churchill inquiry gathered momentum,
Joseph Rosse, chairman of the standing committee on
research misconduct, explained why the allegations had
to be taken seriously.

"Research misconduct is one of the most serious
allegations that can be brought against a faculty
member," Rosse said, "because it strikes at the very
heart of integrity and public trust so crucial to the
mission of a university."

The five-member investigative committee was chaired by
CU law Professor Mimi Wesson. It also included two
other CU faculty members, history professor Marjorie
McIntosh and sociology professor Michael Radelet, as
well as José Limón, professor of English at the
University of Texas at Austin, and Robert N. Clinton,
professor of law at Arizona State University.

The Churchill controversy erupted in January 2005
after the editor of the student newspaper at Hamilton
College in Clinton, N.Y., published a front-page
article about a little-known essay the CU professor
wrote immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist
attacks. In it, Churchill - who was scheduled to talk
at Hamilton - wrote that the attacks were retaliation
for a U.S. foreign policy that had resulted in the
death of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi

"The most that can honestly be said of those involved
on September 11 is that they finally responded in kind
to some of what this country has dispensed to their
people as a matter of course," Churchill wrote.

He then went on to say the terrorists did not strike
"innocent victims," but "military targets, pure and

And, in the phrase most widely-repeated in the furor
that followed, Churchill described the white-collar
employees killed in the World Trade Center as "little
Eichmanns" - a reference to the Nazi war criminal
Adolf Eichmann, responsible for sending millions of
Jews to concentration camps.

News of the essay quickly spread, igniting criticism
from everyone from cable news host Bill O’Reilly to
Gov. Bill Owens and the state Legislature.

The media and some of the more outraged public turned
a microscope on Churchill, questioning everything from
how he earned tenure and whether he has the American
Indian ancestry he has claimed.

They also began picking through Churchill’s many
books, essays and speeches.

After an initial investigation, Phil DeStefano,
interim chancellor of CU’s Boulder campus, said he
disagreed with Churchill’s opinion about those who
died on Sept. 11, but that it was protected by the
First Amendment. DeStefano said the statements
weren’t, by themselves, enough reason for university
to fire him.

But at the same time, the university launched an
investigation into allegations that Churchill
fabricated material and may have copied the work of

CU’s 12-member Standing Committee on Research
Misconduct reviewed the case and decided there was
enough merit to forward seven charges to an
investigative committee for further review.

CU named the five members of that committee last fall.
But after questions were raised about two panelists’
objectivity, those two members resigned.

They were replaced in December, and the new committee
began its work in January.

Last week, the investigative committee - led by Wesson
- turned its findings over to the standing committee.
After reviewing them for the past week, CU made the
report public Tuesday.

Churchill will now be allowed to respond to the
report. Just how much time he’ll get has not been
determined, and Churchill attorney David Lane said
last week he had no idea how long it would take.

Once the standing committee receives Churchill’s
response, it will make a recommendation to DiStefano,
interim Provost Susan Avery, and arts and sciences
Dean Todd Gleeson on what action - if any - should be

The final decision will rest with DiStefano, though
Churchill has the right to appeal it to CU’s Committee
on Privilege and Tenure, as well as to CU President
Hank Brown.

If the recommendation is to fire Churchill, the Board
of Regents also would have to approve the firing.

In all, the process could take several more months to
resolve. Lane and Churchill also have indicated that
they could take CU to federal court, further
prolonging the case.


The conclusions of the investigative committee that
examined seven allegations of research misconduct
against University of Colorado ethnic studies
professor Ward Churchill:

Charge A: That Churchill misrepresented the General
Allotment Act of 1887 in his writings by incorrectly
writing that it created a "blood quantum" standard
that allowed tribes to admit members only if they had
at least half native blood.

Finding: Falsification, failure to comply with
established standards regarding author names on

Charge B: That Churchill misrepresented the Indian
Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 by incorrectly writing
that the act imposed a "blood quantum" requiring
artists to prove they were one-quarter Indian by

Finding: Falsification, failure to comply with
established standards regarding author names on

Charge C: That Churchill incorrectly claimed there was
"some pretty strong circumstantial evidence" that
Capt. John Smith introduced smallpox among the
Wampanoag Indians between 1614-1618.

Finding: Falsification and fabrication.

Charge D: That in several writings Churchill falsely
accused the U.S. Army of committing genocide by
distributing blankets infested with smallpox to Mandan
Indians in the Upper Missouri River Valley in 1837.

Finding: Falsification, fabrication, failure to comply
with established standards regarding author names on
publications, and serious deviation from accepted
practices in reporting results from research. The
committee also found that Churchill was "disrespectful
of Indian oral tradition."

Charge E: That Churchill claimed as his own work a
1972 pamphlet about a water-diversion scheme in Canada
titled "The Water Plot." The work actually was written
by a now-defunct environmental group, "Dam the Dams."

Finding: Plagiarism.

Charge F: That Churchill plagiarized part of an essay
written by Rebecca L. Robbins in a book he published
in 1993.

Finding: No misconduct

Charge G: That Churchill plagiarized the writings of
Canadian professor Fay G. Cohen in a 1992 essay.

Finding: Plagiarism.

University of Colorado report of the investigative