Sunday, February 27, 2005


The Denver Channel reports that 200 University of Colorado faculty members have published a petition in a local newspaper asking that the investigation against Ward Churchill be dropped.

The faculty members paid for the ad to run Monday in The Boulder Daily Camera. The ad says the review of the professor, expected to complete by the middle of March, should be stopped immediately. The ad says the inquiry is the result of political pressure and not based on "any prior formal complaint of specific professional or academic misconduct on his part." ...

CU's Arts and Sciences Council passed a resolution Feb. 10 protesting the investigation, and said administrators should know that faculty members are serious about their opposition to what some consider a witch hunt. Margaret LeCompte, an education professor, said, "It is going to be extremely difficult, if academic freedom is on the block, for us to hire and keep good faculty members.' LeCompte and the other teachers who signed the ad paid $1,600 to have it published. "We're all thinking twice about what we're saying," LeCompte said, recalling the climate in the McCarthy era when professors were fired for alleged communist ties.

The same story is being carried by the Rocky Mountain News on a feed from the Associated Press. Some newspapers are connecting this 'witch hunt' with the mandatory Loyalty Oaths the State of Colorado requires of teachers at institutions of higher learning. According to the Denver Channel:

State law requires anybody who teaches at a higher education institution to sign an oath affirming they will uphold the U.S. and Colorado constitutions. University officials said somewhere between 80 percent and 90 percent of staff have signed loyalty oaths. Those who haven't, will be required to do so. Churchill was among the minority that hadn't before the controversy. But he subsequently has signed.

Dissent has long been described as a patriotic and legitimate activity and Professor Churchill's patriotism is a thing to behold. A transcript of a speech he gave on February 21, 2005 is provided by InfoshopOrg, an anarchist website, from a Counterpunch source.

Ward Churchill: Hello my relatives; you humble me. Bill Owens: do you get it now? [applause] If you can count on your toes, you'll be able to count the percentage points of contribution to the budget the University of Colorado you and your ilk have reduced the taxpayer contribution to. It comes to seven. I do not work for the taxpayers of the state of Colorado. I do not work for Bill Owens.....

Question #4: I'm glad I came here tonight; I've heard a lot more than I heard on the average sound bytes we've been hearing on the radio. I agree with some points, there are other points that I disagree with, but I do believe you have a constitutional right to say what you have to say. On the other hand, do you agree that the First Amendment rights for the people marching in the Columbus Day parade should be taken away, because that is their freedom of expression as well, and I'm one of those people.

Ward Churchill: Let me answer the man. No, I don't believe you have a First Amendment right because that bounces off against my Ninth Amendment right. You know what my Ninth Amendment rights are? Do you know what the Ninth Amendment says?

Question #4: No, sir.

Ward Churchill: Yeah. Do we have a law professor in here? I think this is a lesson for law school, because I addressed another university auditorium with about this many people in it last week, and I posed the same question to the whole group. Professors, students, townspeople and all, not a soul, including law professors, could tell me what the damn Ninth Amendment said. [laughter] S'pose there might be a reason for that?

Question #4: Sir, sir, sirdoes that negate the First Amendment?

Ward Churchill: No, no, wait a minute; let's get an answer to it.

Audience Member: Basically it says that whatever rights were not given to federal government are given to the states.

Ward Churchill: Actually, wrong, beep. [laughter] What it says, in very close paraphrase, is that all rights not otherwise enumerated herein that are inherent in people are retained by them, OK? You can have a real entertaining time looking at the nature of those rights as articulated, and it can be rather nebulous and it can be debatable, but I'll tell you one place you can look where it's not debatable at all and that's in black letter legal articulation. That goes to human rights, particularly the articulation of international human rights that take the form of ratified treaties. Under Article Six of the Constitution of the United States, those are the supreme law of the land, and among them, are fundamental human dignity, OK? And celebration of the conditions that I was describing as pertaining to native people as an outcome of the process initiated by Christopher Columbus, celebrating that guy in any respect at all is a celebration of those conditions. That's a denial of fundamental human dignity, that's a denial of my Ninth Amendment rights and you don't have a right to do that, and you know exactly what you're doing. [applause]

This exchange recalled an earlier Belmont Club post which said:

The implicit assumption underlying this discourse is that "we" -- and not you -- ask the questions. ...  As Robert Kaplan pointed out in The Media and Medievalism, the most powerful tool of totalitarianism is to don the guise of righteousness and assume "the right to question and to demand answers, the right to judge and condemn, and the right to pardon and show mercy." It is in the end an attempt to usurp the wellsprings of legitimacy.

From that acceptance a tyranny follows from which even the dead have no escape. The victims of the World Trade Center may have spent their last moments imagining that they would be avenged. Wrong. Society cannot even undertake to preserve their memory from those who would call them "little Eichmanns". What is at stake is not even the remembrance. To paraphrase another Churchill, it is the universal human experience to be forgotten; but what is at stake now is incomparably greater: the ability to remember who we are, and to prevent, for those who trusted us on that September day, the extinction of their light, their memory and their story.