'I'm going nowhere' says Churchill after firing

10:26 AM, Jul 25, 2007   |    comments
Ward Churchill speaks to the media after the CU Board of Regents voted to fire him.
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The Board of Regents passed a motion to accept the recommendation from CU President Hank Brown to fire Churchill from his position in the Ethnic Studies department.

The measure passed with an 8 to 1 vote. The vote was made just after 5:30 p.m. and Cindy Carlisle was the dissenting vote. The move came after academic committees found in 2006 that Churchill was guilty of academic misconduct, including plagiarism.

The board's decision came more than an hour after it was initially expected. It is unclear what caused the delay.

Immediately after the decision was announced people in the crowd booed and some swore at the board members.

Churchill and his supporters then participated in a Native American ceremony outside of the building.

"I am going nowhere," said Churchill. "This is not about break, this is not about bend, this is not about compromise."

Also after the board made its decision, Brown and Board Chair Patricia Hayes spoke with the media.

"It's been a long hard day," said Hayes. "Not an easy decision for the board."

"One of the most difficult decisions a university has to face happened today and I don't think we had a choice," said Brown.

Hayes disputed the claim by Churchill that the decision to fire him was pre-determined.

"The university has, over the last two and a half years, orchestrated an amazing performance, in some ways, of creating the illusion of scholarly review," said Churchill during a news conference with his attorney, David Lane. "We will be going into court to expose the nature of that fraud."

"The only surprise today was that it took as long as it took and we got one vote. I'm always surprised when somebody stands up and does the right thing," said Lane.

"(The other day) somebody asked me, 'What do you think the board is going to do?' And I didn't know," said Hayes. "I really didn't know where my fellow board members were coming from until we had the discussion today."

"This case was an example not of mistakes, but an effort to falsify history and fabricate history and in the final analysis, this individual did not express regret or apologize," said Brown. "This is a faculty that has an outstanding reputation and this move today protects that reputation."

"At the end of the day we had to look at what these three committees had presented to us and what 25 tenured faculty had said and that was really important to all the board members," said Hayes.

CU released a statement on Tuesday evening saying, "The board's decision to dismiss is final. Professor Churchill will receive one year's salary as a tenured professor, but will be immediately relieved of his faculty post and responsibilities."

Click here to read the entire statement.

When Churchill arrived for the vote, he was carrying two very long poles, which are a Native American symbol. People with Churchill also brought drums.

About 20 Churchill supporters gathered outside of the building where the meeting took place. Among them was Russell Means, a Native American activist and actor.

Churchill initially arrived around 8 a.m. on Tuesday when the meeting began. He was wearing his signature dark glasses with jeans and a black blazer, and arrived shortly before the meeting. He was surrounded by members of the media as he walked into the University Memorial Center and hoisted himself onto a side counter. As he began cracking jokes his supporters could be seen wearing T-shirts which read "It's not about scholarship it's about politics."

Not everyone around him was a supporter however as one man, a self-described blogger, began a heated exchange with Churchill which eventually forced campus security to monitor the situation.

Churchill and Lane went before the regents in the closed door session just after 10:30 a.m.

Lane says he will electronically file a lawsuit with Denver District Court Wednesday claiming the regents violated Churchill's First Amendment rights. He wants the case heard by a state jury.

"We are now on offense. That's one good aspect of today. We are finally going on offense," said Lane.

Churchill touched off a firestorm in 2005 after an essay surfaced which he wrote shortly after 9/11 likening some victims in the World Trade Center to Adolf Eichmann, who helped carry out the Holocaust.

University officials concluded he could not be fired for his comments because they were protected by the First Amendment, but they launched an investigation into allegations that he fabricated or falsified his research and plagiarized the work of others.

In 2006, a university committee found Churchill guilty of academic misconduct, including plagiarism and a faculty panel recommended he be demoted and suspended for a year without pay. In May, CU President Hank Brown recommended Churchill be fired.

Both Brown and Hayes said on Tuesday the board's discussion on Tuesday did not touch on Churchill's comments on 9/11.

"What he said about 9/11 in his essay was not part of our discussion," said Hayes.

Both also said they were not swayed by the threat of legal action.

"I don't think a great university can be intimidated by legal action," said Brown.

"We (the regents) did not discuss any possibility of a lawsuit," said Hayes.

"This was an issue of what's best for the university and we had to step up to the plate and do what's best for the university," said Hayes.

Hayes also said they do not believe the decision will have a chilling effect on other professors.

"True academics will say this is a place they want to be," said Hayes.

"The message this sends is that the university faces up to problems and deals with them and that we are a reliable institution," said Brown.

"It sends absolutely an atrocious message to the academic community all over the country, which is: if you stick your neck out and make politically inflammatory comments, your reputation will be destroyed by the university bent on destroying you and ultimately your tenured position will be forfeited," said Lane. "To the public at large the message is: there will be a payback for free speech."

When asked what would happen if Churchill won his lawsuit he said, "Will I come back here? Yeah. Will I stay very long? I am not of retirement age now. You figure it out from there."

When asked what his emotions were, Churchill raised his fist in the air and shouted "Victory!" Many of his supporters then applauded.

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