Professor Rights Group Condemns CU-Boulder Firings Of Ward Churchill, Phil Mitchell In New Report

The Colorado Conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), a university professors' rights organization, released a report last week blacklisting the University of Colorado for what they see as unjust firings of two CU faculty members: Ward Churchill and Phil Mitchell, The Associated Press reports.

The AAUP's recommendation to faculty seeking employment at the University of Colorado? Accept a position only as a "last resort." The AAUP had these strong words for CU, from the AAUP report:

Phil Mitchell and Ward Churchill are very different sides of the same coin. One is a fundamentalist Christian identified with the political right wing; the other is a radical leftist. One was an untenured instructor; the other was a tenured professor with an international reputation as a pioneering scholar in his field. One's political opinions were known mostly to colleagues in his department and perhaps to the congregation in rural Colorado where he serves as a part-time minister. The other wrote an essay that provoked the enmity of a nation. But both, for a period of over twenty years, were among the most popular teachers at the University of Colorado. And both were fired from the University of Colorado because other people did not like their opinions. Because of the University of Colorado's indifference to the ideals of academic freedom, as abundantly demonstrated in these two reports, the Colorado Conference of the American Association of University Professors recommends that any faculty seeking employment accept a position at the University of Colorado only as a last resort.

And that's just page one of the 250 page AAUP report.

Bronson Hillard, CU Boulder spokesman, defended the firings telling The Daily Camera that Churchill was given full due process during the academic misconduct case and Mitchell's contract was not renewed because he was not following the university program's prescribed academic standards. "These cases have no bearing on the issue of academic freedom," Hillard said to the Daily Camera, "and they are certainly not related to each other."

With regard to Mitchell, the AAUP report cites a number of examples that it claims was "a history of antipathy toward Dr. Mitchell's political and religious convictions within the CU History Department."

However, the saga between CU Boulder and Ward Churchill is a long one and continues to this day. In 2007, the University of Colorado fired Churchill whose 2001 essay "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens" provoked national outrage and led to an investigation of research misconduct, MSNBC reported. In the essay which was originally written shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Churchill argued that American foreign policies provoked the attacks and called workers in the World Trade Center "little Eichmanns," a comparison to Nazi bureaucrat, Adolf Eichmann.

Churchill later filed suit in state court, arguing that he was actually fired for his constitutionally protected expression. The jury found that the Regents would not have fired Churchill but for his controversial comments about 9/11 and awarded $1 in damages for this violation of the First Amendment, Churchill then filed a post-trial motion asking the judge to order reinstatement, according to the ACLU. The jury's verdict and Churchill's request for reinstatement were rejected by a trial court, to which Churchill appealed. In May of 2011, the Colorado Supreme Court agreed to hear Churchill's case, but a date as not yet been set.

When asked by The Huffington Post about the "little Eichmanns" remark, now ten years later, Churchill said this:

I retract nothing. What I said has been validated beyond my wildest expectations, to tell you the truth, so let's just say that I rest my case. A lot of people were outraged by my remark, of course, but, to cop a quote from Rick Perry, 'You throw a rock into a pack of dogs, the one who yaps is the one who got hit.' In other words, the people upset were the f***ing Eichmanns. Look in the mirror and own it, guys. You identified yourselves by frothing at the mouth for being called by your right name. See? Perry's good for something, after all.

Read the full AAUP report below:

Flickr image via Wafer X