Churchill in court to ask to teach again at CU
Associated Press Writer
Denver, CO Colorado
DENVER, Colorado – Ward Churchill, the former Colorado professor fired after comparing some Sept. 11 victims to a Nazi, testified Wednesday he should get his job back to preserve academic freedom.
But University of Colorado attorney Patrick O’Rourke said if Churchill returns to teaching, his relationship with the school “would not be an amicable one.”
The university is opposing Churchill’s reinstatement request despite an April verdict in which jurors concluded he was wrongly fired for an essay in which he called World Trade Center victims “little Eichmanns,” a reference to a Nazi who helped orchestrate the Holocaust. The university maintains they fired Churchill for academic fraud.
Jurors awarded Churchill $1 in damages, but the lawsuit did not settle his job status. A judge will decide whether Churchill should be reinstated after attorneys for both sides present witnesses Wednesday.
Chief Denver District Judge Larry J. Naves also has the option of awarding Churchill “front pay,” money for the years he could’ve worked at the university.
Churchill said on the stand that his lawsuit was never about money. He said it was “primarily as a matter of principle, to preserve the concept, if you will, of academic freedom,” adding that professors should not be silenced for their opinions.
Churchill was fired in 2007 after the university conducted an investigation into his scholarly work. University officials say they found a pattern of research misconduct that included plagiarism and fabricated research on Native Americans.
Churchill denied the allegations. The university’s investigation did not include the Sept. 11 essay, which officials said was protected speech.
O’Rourke challenged Churchill on the stand, accusing him of not respecting his colleagues. O’Rourke referenced a 2007 quote in which Churchill said a “random group of homeless people under a bridge would be far more intellectually sound and principled than anything I’ve encountered at the university so far.”
“Those words appeared in print,” Churchill responded. “I said that, but that was not the complete statement.”
Churchill made the comments when talking about the university’s investigation into his work. At the time, he said he thought the court system would be a fairer venue for the allegations against him.
Churchill was a tenured professor of ethnic studies. His attorneys have said they want a quick ruling so he can return to school this fall.
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