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The Collective
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
By Dr. Steven Taylor

The incompetency of the University of Colorado in this matter continues to amaze. Interestingly, all of what is described below matches my initial reactions to Churchill: that he lacked adequate credential and that his work wasn’t particularly rigorous or scholarly. Indeed, practically any person in the business of higher education should have been able to notice these problems immediately.

Now we find that the California State University system could see this as well, even if CU couldn’t.

Via the Rocky Mountain News: Ex-official: No tenure for Churchill [Is that like “no soup for you”? And how ironic would that be, given Churchill’s Nazi fixation?-Ed.]

University of Colorado officials rushed to award tenure to Ward Churchill in 1991, thinking he had been offered a full professorship in American Indian studies at a California university.

But a former official in the California system says no such offer was ever made.

“He wasn’t really a serious candidate because of his lack of credentials,” said George Wayne, a former vice president for student academic services at California State University, Sacramento.

“The lack of a doctorate was one factor,” Wayne said Monday. “Also, he wasn’t writing learned articles - they were advocacy articles that could appear anywhere.”

Quite frankly one has to wonder as to what the CU folks were thinking: how could it have possibly been the case that a fellow who didn’t even have a full-time teaching gig at the time (if I understand the history) be offered a full professorship anywhere, except at a diploma mill?

It would seem that the Cal State-Northridge folks had their act together and knew how to read a job packet, while the CU gang did not:

Northridge officials never spent much time considering Churchill for the position, according to Wayne.

“He never showed up as a serious applicant,” Wayne said. “He received a letter saying, ‘We’ve reviewed your application and are considering someone else.’ ”

On the Boulder campus, it was a different story. CU officials were convinced they had to move fast and give Churchill tenure or risk losing him to another school.

As a side note it is worth noting that while Cal State-Northridge is a fine institution, it would rank well below CU-Boulder in terms of academic quality and national standing. However, to wonder as to the wisdom of such a rankings:

In January 1991, the incoming chairman of the CU communication department, Michael Pacanowsky, told his faculty that the department was being pressured by CU officials to grant tenure to Churchill as soon as possible.

The university feared that Churchill had been offered a full professorship at Cal State at Northridge, Pacanowsky wrote in a memo to the faculty.

Churchill did not have a doctorate, which is usually required for tenure.

Tenure review typically includes an evaluation of the candidate’s published works by scholars from other campuses. That apparently didn’t happen in Churchill’s case.

In the memo, Pacanowsky tells his colleagues that he is troubled by the hasty process that eventually gave Churchill tenure.

He said CU was eager to add an American Indian scholar to its faculty.

The question becomes: who was doing the pressuring?

While I understand, and philosophically support, the concept of diversity on campuses and within faculties, this is a textbook example of how not to pursue it. It certainly illustrates what many critics of affirmative action/diversity policies rightly note: that the focus under such policies becomes not the qualifications of the candidate, but his or her skin color/ethnicity. And so, CU has been hoisted by its own petard, it wold seem:

Wayne says that if Northridge had seriously considered Churchill for a job, they would have sent someone to Boulder to interview his colleagues and the university would have known he was being courted.

Wayne thinks CU officials were simply determined to hire an American Indian to teach ethnic studies.

“They thought Churchill was a hot prospect,” Wayne said. “He wasn’t that hot. The only place he was hot was at CU.”

Now he isn’t hot, he’s radioactive. I suppose CU is getting what it deserves.

The irony is, Churchill still has tenure and unless it can be proved that he misrepresented the Cal State Northridge situation to CU, the likelihood is that CU will not have adequate legal grounds to fire him. However, it may well be that whomever it was that rushed his tenure, if in an administrative position, may lose their job.

Another unusual/inside baseball aspect of this story is that universities are notoriously slow in matters of hiring, making the alacrity with which this move was made to be even more stunning.

Update Bill Hennessey comments, and Jonah Goldberg proclaims “Churchill Lied”. As much as I don’t want to be in the position of defending Churchill, I would note that the piece does not establish that Churchill lied, it just states that CU thought he had been offered a job at CSUN. Now, it is wholly possible that Churchill directly told them that, although it is more likely that he intimated it. Let’s face facts and be fair: it is not unusual, nor an unethical paractice, to note that one is seeking a job elsewhere to make oneself look more desirable. Since the story does not establish what Churchill told CU, I am unwilling to leap to the conclusion that he lied (although I wholly accept the possibility that he did). Regardless, it is similarly likely that he dropped hints and that CU folks jumped to conclusions. Given the way they have handled this situation from beginning, the safe bet here is to go with CU incompetence.

Update 2: Betsy Newmark also comments on the story, noting:

Colorado deserves all the problems that they’re having now with this guy. He’s a fraud academically, philosophically, and professionally. And they ignored all their normal procedures simply to hire a Native American.

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20 Comments

  1. Excellent piece, Steven. We must have been typing at the same time. You’ve done a superb, evenhanded job with the Ward Churchill story. I, on the other hand, have been my inflammatory self.

    Comment by Bill Hennessy — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 8:35 am

  2. Ward Churchill’s Tenure and Chair Obtained by Lying
    Last week, Steven Taylor brought up the fact of Ward Churchill’s very thin credentials for his chair and tenure at University of Colorado. Taylor also noted that UofC waived some normal requirements in the process, namely demanding a PhD. Now we kn…

    Trackback by Hennessy's View — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 8:39 am

  3. [q] [i]Human Torch[/i] Flame On (Hennesey)! [/q]

    Comment by Steven L. — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 9:07 am

  4. Steven, perhaps I could have written “I believe Churchill Lied.” I do. He continues to lie about his Indian ancestry. His official statement denied content of his essay on 9/11. His history is thick with lying for personal gain. Hinting to an employer than another employer is offering you more money, seniority, whatever, is lying, at least if the one implying permits the the one inferring to act upon that misinformation.

    As a hiring manager, I refuse to match offers. If someone comes to me with a resignation and says it’s because of money, I politely accept. Only once has it turned out the person was lying to get a raise, and our CEO saved his hide over my objections, forcing my resignation as a matter of principle.

    Either way, Churchill permitted his employer to act on his behalf based on erroneous information which Churchill undoubtedly knew to be erroneous. That’ dishonest no matter how sliced.

    Comment by Bill Hennessy — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 9:33 am

  5. But do some statistical research on the number of non-Ph.D faculty who have tenure in the U.S. at 4 year colleges and universities and you will see that the numbers are more than 15%.

    Note too there are a number of well-known tenured writers at American universities.

    Note too that Arnold Schlesinger, the w ell-known Harvard historian does not have a doctorate-and he has been tenured for decades. Note too that it was only very late into his career that Thomas Kuhn, the famous historian of science got his doctorate.

    This thing about having doctorates may be sufficient for serious scholarship but it is not necessary. For example, 2 of the most accomplished scholars of the modern era did not have doctorates: Einstein and John Maynard Keynes. Some might even s ay that both Keynes and Einstein are the most influential scholars of the modern age.

    But note the following: the average tenured professor has not published a book nor more than 5 articles-most of which are silly nonsensical, vitually plagiarized puff pieces.

    Note that most articles in the peer-reviewed journals are safe, boring, conventional wisdom junk. The idea that a research paper is scholarly because it has a 1,000 footnotes is just stupid. How many footnotes did Einstein’s famous 1905 paper on special relativity have. And Keynes’s path-breaking General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money was not much footnoted at all. It was rambling and hardly foot-noted-but it was a work of imagination and intellect.

    Comment by Paradox — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 9:38 am

  6. Bill,

    My only point is that one does not know from the article what he did or did not tell CU. If he stated that he had applied for a position at CSUN that’s one thing, and he may have thought (and said) that he was in the running. Now, if he said he had been offered a position, that is falsehood.

    My point is twofold: 1) I try not to infer information from newspaper articles that isn’t clearly stated) and 2) the onus was on CU to conduct the process in a proper manner. To jump tp the conclusion that anyone has offered Churchill a tenured full professorship signals to me at least a profound level of incompetence on the part of whomever it was conducting the process.

    This doesn’t let Churchill off the hook by any stretch. Still, legally CU is likely stuck with him unless definitive proof is forthcoming that he misrepresented himself.

    This may well yet come, and I shan’t shed a tear for the man.

    Still the major problem here is the university itself.

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 9:42 am

  7. Paradox,

    Some of what you write is accurate, some not.

    The issue here is pretty simple: if one is going to offere a permanent job to an undercredentialed individual, there needs to be a very compelling reason to do so.

    Churchill ain’t Einstein.

    Further, in today’s hiring climate (or even 10 to 20 years ago) there is no lack of qualified Ph.D.s-so there is no reason to give the job that Churchill got to an MA.

    And btw, I think you mean Arthur Schlesinger-who, I would note, had a remarkable career and came up in a time (decades and decades ago) when Ph.D.s were rarer.

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 9:47 am

  8. Steven, I’ll cede the point.

    Comment by Bill Hennessy — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 9:50 am

  9. Sure, lying is wrong but even a political scientist should know that lying is normal routine of modern life. Politicians and political parties lie all the time and for many lying is seen as just another game-theoretic strategy whenever one bargains for anything in life…. It’s morally w rong, but since when is morality considered a serious consideration in market-oriented societies?

    Comment by Paradox — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 9:52 am

  10. Bill,

    I will say this: if it comes out that Churchill lied, it will hardly surprise me.

    S

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 9:53 am

  11. I just sent a request for background to the regents. Shall I begin holding my breath now?

    Comment by Bill Hennessy — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 10:01 am

  12. Request for Background to U of C Board of Regents
    Yeah, I know they won’t reply, but I figured I should ask, anyway.

    The Rocky Mountain News today…

    Trackback by Hennessy's View — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 10:03 am

  13. Thanks for the Schlesinger correction.

    In any case one should recognize that the point of scholarship is to advance knowledge by proposing bold and anomalous ideas. The tenure process and the peer review evaluation of articles for journal publication is essentially meant to control the flow of new ideas. That’s why the greatest intellects in modern times avoided universities like the plague. Think of Kant, Mill, Hume, Keynes, Sartre, Marx, Socrates, et al. Which strait-laced university would have tenured them?

    Comment by Paradox — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 10:03 am

  14. Indeed.

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 10:06 am

  15. The “indeed” was for Bill’s breath-holding.

    Paradox-I disagree with your characterization of the processes in question. Further, I would hardly oput Churchill in the same categories as those fellows and, in fact, I would expect that they could all get tenure in a US university these days.

    Comment by Steven Taylor — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 10:08 am

  16. Paradox,

    “It’s morally w rong, but since when is morality considered a serious consideration in market-oriented societies?”
    You don’t pay much attention to other comments, do you? See Bill Hennessey above, who resigned over a matter of principle. People make those kinds of decisions every day - lots of people. If you don’t know any, it says more about *you* (and your chosen associates) than the rest of *us*.

    Comment by Meezer — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 11:38 am

  17. You gotta have credentials, a Ph.D., and academic writings to get hired nowadays at a university?

    Hmmmm… what has become of the hallowed halls of the Academy?

    (On a less sarcastic note, when it comes to hiring in “special categories,” you would be amazed at how fast universities move. I have many a personal story.)

    Comment by John Lemon — Tuesday, February 22, 2005 @ 1:24 pm

  18. […] e case. It is why my first post on Churchill was primarily about his credentials, and why Cal State Northridge, and at least two deparments at CU, didn’t want him. I teach at a primari […]

    Pingback by PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science » Churchill and Affirmative Action — Sunday, February 27, 2005 @ 8:14 pm

  19. Please check some relevant pages about loans
    - Tons of interesdting stuff!!!

    Comment by loans — Sunday, May 29, 2005 @ 9:15 pm

  20. […] at Churchill should have been disciplined for having far-out theories. I have argued that he wasn’t qualified for the post he held and argued that he had the academic freedom to write what he wr […]

    Pingback by PoliBlog: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » The Ward Churchill: Deliberate Acts of Academic Misconduct — Wednesday, May 17, 2006 @ 1:48 pm

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