Ward Churchill was found Wrongfully Terminated

Taken from the NY Times which you can read here:

A jury ruled Thursday that Ward L. Churchill, a former University of Colorado professor who drew national attention for an essay in which he called some victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks “little Eichmanns,” was wrongfully terminated.

Churchill won, but he only received $1 in damages.

For me, this is the right step in justice.  If you don’t like his views, you don’t need to read them or pay attention to them, but he has the right to speak his mind.  As J. S. Mill has said: If all mankind minus one were of one opinion and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that person that he, if he had the power, would be in silencing mankind… If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

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About shaunmiller

I am a Ph. D student at Marquette University. The primary purpose of this blog is to get my ideas out there, and then have other people scrutinize, critique, build upon, and systematize beliefs. This blog will sometimes pertain to what I'm learning in my classes, but it will occasionally deal with non-classroom issues that I'm thinking about as well.
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7 Responses to Ward Churchill was found Wrongfully Terminated

  1. thekillerj says:

    Horse shit. You must not understand the emotionally destructive power of his words. Furthermore, when a person with power/influence like a professor says these things the destructiveness is amplified.

    Would you quote Mill and talk about the right step for justice if a professor called the victims of the My Lai Massacre “little Pol Pots?”

    Besides, Mill’s quote is idealistic. It’s almost as though he’s assuming opinions are discussed en masse on a world stage, where everybody’s opinion is heard and given equal weight. This does not happen in a university setting. The professor’s opinion IS the gold standard, especially when dealing with a fanatical loon like Churchill. I’ll bet he’s super tolerant of ALL opinions, right? Just like my professors at the U.

    I know you know what professional conduct is. Churchill was extremely unprofessional. It is downright dereliction of duty to manipulate impressionable students with vitriolic hatred under the guise of education. There needs to be accountability and responsibility if one is entrusted with educating our nation’s citizens.

  2. shaunmiller says:

    Killerj wrote:

    You must not understand the emotionally destructive power of his words. Furthermore, when a person with power/influence like a professor says these things the destructiveness is amplified.

    Welcome to freedom of speech. Yes, his words can cause offense, but I doubt it will cause emotional destruction. If we can allow the KKK to speak, if we can allow the Neo-Nazis to speak and parade, if we can allow Gay Pride parades (and those, I would argue have more emotional destruction and has more amplification), then we should also allow Churchill to speak.

    Killerj writes:

    Would you quote Mill and talk about the right step for justice if a professor called the victims of the My Lai Massacre “little Pol Pots?”

    I sure would. He can speak whatever he wishes. Do I agree with him? No. But he has the right to speak his mind.

    Killej writes:

    Besides, Mill’s quote is idealistic. It’s almost as though he’s assuming opinions are discussed en masse on a world stage, where everybody’s opinion is heard and given equal weight.

    Aren’t all ideas like that? You can pretty much get on the internet and find ideas on pretty much anything nowadays. With that, I find anything against Mill idealistic. Mill speaks for freedom of speech and speaking your opinion. That doesn’t sound idealistic to me. I find anything that silences speech idealistic.

    Killerj writes:

    This does not happen in a university setting. The professor’s opinion IS the gold standard, especially when dealing with a fanatical loon like Churchill. I’ll bet he’s super tolerant of ALL opinions, right? Just like my professors at the U.

    Actually, it does happen at a university setting. Faculty and teachers will always discuss about other people’s ideas. Professor’s opinions are not the gold standard. If people believed that, then they’re not thinking for themselves. I’ve sat through college and sometimes professor teaches it without bias. Other times, the professor teaches with an agenda. However, I can tell which is which. If the professor is speaking with an agenda, I already know that it’s his opinion, not facts. If people don’t know this, then they shouldn’t be in college. With dealing with crazy people, who defines crazy? Who defines the extremes? Society? Then we’re back to the problem at hand. Why does it matter if he’s tolerant of opinions? I’m not tolerant of some opinions either. Does that mean I’m not allowed to teach?

    Secondly, he wrote an essay on his opinions. If you don’t like what you’re reading, throw it away. It’s clear that he wasn’t fired because of his opinions or his research methods, but because of political reasons. In other words, they just didn’t like what he was saying. I am a great believer in academic freedom. It is essential that academics be allowed to say the most controversial things without fear of being fired. So the question is should the university administration fire someone because they hold reprehensible views? I say no. That’s part of the freedom of speech.

    By him speaking, he will show the world that his speaking is ridiculous, but because of this, his views was brought further into the light. With this, he should be challenged, he ought to be challenged. This shows why he’s wrong. If we silence him, that only feeds the oppression.

  3. thekillerj says:

    We might just inherently disagree about what a professor should or shouldn’t say in the name of academic integrity and social decorum. I suppose you find standards unnecessary or even archaic, and that’s fine.

    I understand you think educators should be allowed to preach Nazi/Anti-Semitic/Pedophilic/Racist/Anti-American drivel at the university level, but is there a cut-off for you?

    Should a high school teacher be permitted to speak this way? Jr. High? Elementary?

  4. thekillerj says:

    Mill also talked about the harm principle. He states: “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

    Do you think victim’s families may experience psychological harm with rhetoric like this being tossed around? I’d say so. It goes beyond “offending” somebody with comments like those Ward made.

  5. shaunmiller says:

    I do believe we need standards. The problem is that I don’t know what these standards should be. I feel that if there is some sort of standard, that immediately takes away the whole notion of freedom of speech. Thus, all I can say is that the limit is where it causes harm. That’s my cut-off point for me.

    Now, as you rightfully pointed out, how do you define harm? Physical harm is easy to define. When it comes to psychological or emotional harm, then it becomes difficult to define. Ideally, it would have to come to individual tastes: what you may find harmful, I may only find offensive. It’s really hard to legislate psychological or emotional harm. So to answer your question: I don’t know. But I’ll admit that I do have a bias. After all, it takes a lot to offend me. When Churchill said that the victims were “little Eichmanns,” it didn’t harm me. It actually didn’t offend me. I just laughed it off. Of course, it could seriously offend the families of those victims. Could they experience psychological harm? Yes, they could. But in all honesty, I think they would be extremely offended, but not harmed. Again though, this may be coming from my bias. If someone told me that all Vietnamese people are the assholes of the world and that they should be shot off the face of the earth. I wouldn’t be harmed by it. Would I be offended by it? Perhaps. But most likely, I’d just laugh it off. Indeed, when bin Laden makes his remarks about America, I find it silly. However, I’m willing to admit that this is from my dispositions and someone else may have a different attitude. As brutal as it sounds, I still think Ward has the right to say whatever he wants.

    As for elementary, Jr. high, and high schools, I think that as you age, you mature. So in elementary schools, you do have an obligation to watch what you say. As you move up, you have more freedom to speak out. Once you enter college, however, you can speak your mind. If you’re going to be academic, it’d be best if you did it in a forum obviously. When Columbia let Ahmadinejad speak, it was better than letting him speak willy-nilly at where ever he spoke about. So I guess what I’m saying is that it’s better to have a forum and debate about what you’re talking about, rather than a plain open area. If it’s a plain open area, you’re going to look foolish, and through my experience, hardly anyone pays attention to you anyways if you’re just speaking out in the open.

  6. thekillerj says:

    You make some good points in the last post. I guess it would be hard to legislate that type of thing. The thing is,I didn’t say I wanted him locked up. Ultimately, I was talking about his employment status.

    I think the university has every right to hire and fire whom they please. I wouldn’t send any kid I had to a school where Churchill taught, and I think the University recognized that a lot of people think like I do.

    Shouldn’t the University have the right to get rid of somebody this backwards that is on their payroll?

    • shaunmiller says:

      Not unless that professor has tenure. If the university has the right to get rid of someone whomever they please, then the professors have to pay attention to what they say which takes away the whole notion of academic freedom. So the options come down to this: academic freedom, where you’ll be able to express your mind and show progress but that means you’ll have a few people in the fringes who may say things that are really repugnant, silly, perverse, or just plain wrong; or academic political correctness, where everyone’s on the same page and everyone just talks about the facts, but it’s mediocre, no conflicts, and it seems that there’s no debate. I’d rather have the messy academic freedom than the mediocre academic political correctness.

      Along with this, I’m sure many students know who he is. If they don’t want to listen to his views, they don’t have to attend his class. For those that want to, they are able to.

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