Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

The principle of tenure upheld

Posted by Charles II on April 3, 2009

You gotta love American juries. They often seem to find a way to do exactly the right thing. Ward Churchill was vindicated in his suit alleging wrongful dismissal by the University of Colorado.. but they only gave him $1 in damages. Governor Bill Owens said, probably correctly, that: “I think the $1 in damages accurately reflects the jury’s appreciation for Ward Churchill’s warm and endearing personality.” A later hearing will decide whether he gets damages for future salary lost.

As I understood it from DemocracyNow, CU will also pay his attorney’s fees.

* The principle of tenure was upheld
* The kangaroo process by which Churchill’s tenure was abrogated was repudiated
* Ward Churchill’s obnoxious views were given no quarter.
Well, four quarters, but no more.

Today is a good day.
Added: Conservative professor David Deming had an excellent take on this:

The pretext given for his dismissal was academic misconduct. But the real reason was that Professor Churchill wrote some things that offended people.

His termination was a violation of the academic freedom guaranteed to faculty by CU and the U.S. Constitution.

We embrace free speech for pragmatic reasons. Without criticism, human knowledge cannot increase…

I doubt if many CU faculty members could withstand having their entire body of work scrutinized by a Star Chamber with a magnifying lens.

Suppose I publicly criticize the local police department, and their officers subsequently start following me all over town, ticketing me for minor violations that they normally would ignore.

Am I being punished for breaking the law — or for exercising my right of free speech?

Also, since this may not be clear to some, academic freedom derives its substance really only from tenure. The contract of an untenured professor may not be renewed with no explanation given. But when someone has tenure, there has to be due process for depriving someone of employment. Due process alone is a powerful deterrent to those who want to do wrong.

Which is why the right hates it so much.
Added: Apparently the jury was not trying to punish Churchill by the small award. A juror spoke out:

As for the $1 damage award, Newell said jurors simply listened to Churchill and his attorney.

“They made a strong point they didn’t want any money from it and so we just went with that so we just took them on their word for it,” Newell said.

Also, the trial made it clear that the firing was occasioned not because of Churchill’s dodgy scholarship but because Governor Owens didn’t like Churchill’s opinions:

Betsy Hoffman, who was president of the university at the time, had testified that Owens pressured her to fire Churchill and said he would “unleash my plan” when she told him she couldn’t.

In his testimony, Owens denied threatening the university.

(via Praeter Necessitatum)

3 Responses to “The principle of tenure upheld”

  1. Yup. The jury did a good job of paring away all the nonsense that was packed around this case by the Noise Machine.

  2. Stormcrow said

    Nice. A fine job by judge and jury.

    Everything else seems to be falling down around our ears right now, which makes moments like this all the sweeter.

  3. jo6pac said

    Yep, I don’t always agree with Ward but in his former world they need to hear all sides. Then if they are still able make up what they believe in. This ED thing is becoming a thing of the past for those don’t have enough $.

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