Friday, February 04, 2005

The Ward Churchill Story 2

Reader Willow at Legendgames (hat tip: Glenn Reynolds) links to this press release by Colorado University Phil DiStefano laying out the procedure under which the Ward Churchill controversy will be resolved. DiStefano has crafted the question as a strict freedom of speech issue.

Two primary questions will be examined in this review: (1) Does Professor Churchill's conduct, including his speech, provide any grounds for dismissal for cause, as described in the Regents' Laws? And (2) if so, is this conduct or speech protected by the First Amendment against University action?

As Chancellor, I will personally conduct this review and will ask two distinguished deans, Arts and Sciences Dean Todd Gleeson and Law Dean David Getches, to assist me with this process.

Under these terms of reference the matter of Churchill's Indian ethnicity or the validity of his qualifications is irrelevant. He might be a creature from outer space without affecting the outcome one whit. It is not one of the questions the distinguished panel will resolve. Within these narrow limits the panel will probably have no choice but to find that although Ward Churchill's statements are ill-informed or regrettable, they are protected expressions.

Nothing of course, precludes a supplementary review of whether his qualifications were faked. It is possible that CU will follow the strategy of affirming the principle of academic freedom while asserting its right to dismiss on other grounds. Yet that is contingent; the actual is that the Ward Churchill case is being molded as a First Amendment issue, and under those terms, he is likely to be vindicated.

But whether it will vindicate the First Amendment in general on campus and not just Ward Churchill in particular is probably the larger question. Consistency requires that if Churchill's speech is licit, so might many other types of expression which have been proscribed as 'hate speech'. The Seattle PI reports that Marquette University has banned Republican Students from raising money for their 'Adopt a Sniper' program.

Marquette University in Wisconsin has blocked an attempt by Republican students to raise money for a group called "Adopt a Sniper" that raises money for U.S. sharp-shooters in Iraq and Afghanistan. ... The brainchild of a Texas police SWAT officer, Adopt a Sniper has raised thousands of dollars in cash and gear to supplement the kit of sharp shooters in U.S. combat platoons.

Two primary questions should be put to Marquette in this regard. '(1) Does the student's conduct, including their campaign, provide any grounds for proscription, as described in the Regents' Laws? And (2) if so, is this conduct or speech protected by the First Amendment against University action?'