On several occasions, I have (unpopularly) argued that Ward Churchill's firing from his tenured faculty position at the University of Colorado was unjustified, as the termination seemed to pretty clearly be due to his remarks about 9/11 rather than any academic mis-conduct.
While Colorado has tried to argue that they fired him because his academic work was weak, I have argued that it is no weaker than much of the work done by any number of high-profile racial and gender studies departments (Duke University being just one recent example). Racial and gender studies professors are generally evaluated based on their political activism, not their scholarship, so firing Churchill was both wrong on a first amendment basis and wrong because his statements on 9/11 were merely conforming to the standards of his chosen academic discipline.
A jury found on Thursday that the University of Colorado had wrongfully dismissed a professor who drew national attention for an essay in which he called some victims of the Sept. 11 attacks "little Eichmanns."...
The jurors found that Mr. Churchill's political views had been a "substantial or motivating" factor in his dismissal, and that the university had not shown that he would have been dismissed anyway.
If you don't believe me about activism trumping scholarship as a criteria for hiring racial and gender studies professors, just listen to Churchill's lawyer:
Mr. Lane, Mr. Churchill's lawyer, said his client had been a spokesman throughout his academic career for disempowered people and causes "” a trait, Mr. Lane said, that never made Mr. Churchill popular with people in power. "For 30 years, he's been telling the other side of the story," Mr. Lane said.
Missing are terms like study, research, investigation, etc -- this is activism, pure and simple. And Colorado knew it and wanted it when they hired him, so it was wrong for them to fire him for it.