CU Kicks the Can Down the Road

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CU Kicks the Can Down the Road

Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Mar 28, 2005 9:00 am

MSNBC.com
Colo. university responds to attacks on credibility
Professor’s 9/11 comments defendedas free speech; tenure policy under review

MSNBC staff and news service reports
Updated: 11:27 p.m. ET March 24, 2005


The University of Colorado responded Thursday to issues challenging its reputation, with the school's chancellor promising to review tenure policies, defending an embattled professor’s controversial comments about Sept. 11 victims, and warning that allegations of academic misconduct against the professor had “sufficient merit to warrant further inquiry.”

At a news conference from the university's Denver campus, acting Chancellor Philip DiStefano said an essay by Ward Churchill, the tenured ethnic studies professor at the heart of much of the current controversy, was protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, and as such no academic disciplinary actions were warranted.

Churchill’s essay said the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks should have come as no surprise because some people at the World Trade Center were part of “a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire.” And Churchill referred to some of those who died on 9/11 as “little Eichmanns,” a reference to Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi SS official and an architect of the Holocaust.

Gov. Bill Owens has called on university officials to fire Churchill, and suggested the Legislature consider imposing statewide standards for tenure.

DiStefano on Thursday defended Churchill's right to write it. “We found his speech, which we reviewed, is protected by the First Amendment,” DiStefano said of the review of Churchill's views in the essay. “Content and rhetoric, no matter how repugnant, are protected by the First Amendment.”

Other allegations loom

But DiStefano said that a faculty committee review of other allegations — including allegations of a 1997 act of plagiarism, and more recent allegations of copying artwork and misrepresenting himself as a Native American — had “sufficient merit to warrant further inquiry,” in a process that DiStefano said could take “up to seven months.”

The allegations have gained visibility in recent months; if confirmed as true, they could be the one way to remove Churchill from his post, despite his tenure, which protects a college’s faculty members from being fired except for blatant misconduct.

“Research misconduct is one of the most serious allegations against a faculty member at the university,” DiStefano said.

Churchill, who has denied any misconduct, has said he would sue if the university attempts to fire him.


Tenure under review

The university also ordered a review of its tenure system, an action again prompted by Churchill.

Since the publicity about his essay, Churchill and the university have faced questions about how he gained tenure. Assertions have surfaced that Churchill, tenured in 1991, may have circumvented some of the vetting process, and that he may not have satisfied qualifications for tenure.

The university’s governing Board of Regents has voted to form a panel to examine the way the school awards tenure and the way professors are evaluated after they get it. Outgoing university President Elizabeth Hoffman said Thursday that some changes to the process are likely.

Churchill has announced his intention to travel to a Washington state college for an April 5 appearance before Native American students, despite having been disinvited by the college's president.

MSNBC.com's Michael E. Ross, The Associated Press and NBC affiliate KUSA contributed to this report.
URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7288436/
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Post by Ralph » Mon Mar 28, 2005 1:08 pm

If there were substantial misrepresentations by Churchill, tenure revocation is a possibility. Plagiarism would almost guarantee it.

Talk about changing the tenuring process is nonsense. Much of it is dictated by accreditation agencies who would not accept any watering down of the procedures. And I haven't seen anything yet to suggest that Churchill was treated differently or inappropriately when he came up for tenure.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Mon Mar 28, 2005 2:16 pm

Ralph wrote:Much of it is dictated by accreditation agencies who would not accept any watering down of the procedures.
You keep talking like this written in stone by God and can't be changed by mere mortals. Forget it. I ain't buyin' it.
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Post by Haydnseek » Mon Mar 28, 2005 4:30 pm

Ralph wrote:If there were substantial misrepresentations by Churchill, tenure revocation is a possibility. Plagiarism would almost guarantee it.

Talk about changing the tenuring process is nonsense. Much of it is dictated by accreditation agencies who would not accept any watering down of the procedures. And I haven't seen anything yet to suggest that Churchill was treated differently or inappropriately when he came up for tenure.
It sounds to me as if they want to tighten up the process not water it down.
Assertions have surfaced that Churchill, tenured in 1991, may have circumvented some of the vetting process, and that he may not have satisfied qualifications for tenure.
This was a department of "Ethnic Studies" or something like that. They should sieze the opportunity to close the department. I doubt that much valuable work was done there - probably just a lot of political "activism." Give the funds budgeted for them to the real departments, like chemistry, engineering, history, or music even. :wink:
"The law isn't justice. It's a very imperfect mechanism. If you press exactly the right buttons and are also lucky, justice may show up in the answer. A mechanism is all the law was ever intended to be." - Raymond Chandler

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Post by Ralph » Mon Mar 28, 2005 7:49 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Ralph wrote:Much of it is dictated by accreditation agencies who would not accept any watering down of the procedures.
You keep talking like this written in stone by God and can't be changed by mere mortals. Forget it. I ain't buyin' it.
*****

You don't have to buy anything. One great thing about this board is that anyone can opine about anything: experience not needed.

But I have thirty years in the academy which includes involvement in myriad tenure decisions and litigation about tenure. You have no idea how university administrations are virtually paralyzed, especially in the age of courting prospective students, by even a hint of accreditation difficulties. When I meet with prospective students and often their parents I'm asked about my school with a level of detail unimaginable when I went to law school. I've had someone who flew in to see the school ask about a New York Law Journal article relating to a tenure lawsuit.

In reality, America's accreditation agencies are the equivalent of faculty unions to a certain extent. It doesn't matter whether one likes that or not.

Unless tenure is revoked for an unchallengeable act, like murdering a dean or setting fire to a campus building, litigation almost invariably follows a firing. It's somewhat like impeaching a federal judge.

What really happens, as I've experienced more than once, is that a person no longer worthy of tenure - one whose presence hurts students - is bought out with a generous offer and even that usually follows years of trying to get the guy back with the program.

The other side of the coin is that academic freedom is protected vigorously. There may be cosmetic changes at CU but that's all they'll be.

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Post by pizza » Tue Mar 29, 2005 12:01 am

Ralph wrote:
Corlyss_D wrote:
Ralph wrote:Much of it is dictated by accreditation agencies who would not accept any watering down of the procedures.
You keep talking like this written in stone by God and can't be changed by mere mortals. Forget it. I ain't buyin' it.
*****

You don't have to buy anything. One great thing about this board is that anyone can opine about anything: experience not needed.

But I have thirty years in the academy which includes involvement in myriad tenure decisions and litigation about tenure. You have no idea how university administrations are virtually paralyzed, especially in the age of courting prospective students, by even a hint of accreditation difficulties. When I meet with prospective students and often their parents I'm asked about my school with a level of detail unimaginable when I went to law school. I've had someone who flew in to see the school ask about a New York Law Journal article relating to a tenure lawsuit.

In reality, America's accreditation agencies are the equivalent of faculty unions to a certain extent. It doesn't matter whether one likes that or not.

Unless tenure is revoked for an unchallengeable act, like murdering a dean or setting fire to a campus building, litigation almost invariably follows a firing. It's somewhat like impeaching a federal judge.

What really happens, as I've experienced more than once, is that a person no longer worthy of tenure - one whose presence hurts students - is bought out with a generous offer and even that usually follows years of trying to get the guy back with the program.

The other side of the coin is that academic freedom is protected vigorously. There may be cosmetic changes at CU but that's all they'll be.
The other side of the coin won't count for much if there are enough Ward Churchills around to define academic freedom. He was the wake-up call for the average family planning on a higher education for their kids but the phenomenon he represents has been recognized for some time now. There seems to be a growing trend toward questioning and challenging the accepted myths. What passes for academic freedom is often nothing more than political indoctrination in the classroom by professors who use their pulpit to advance a personal agenda. People are getting wise to it and are starting to look for alternative ways to blow their mega-dollars on a real education for their kids. It may not happen overnight but it will happen eventually if the schools don't get their act together. The market-place rather than artificial unions will determine the outcome.

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Post by Ralph » Tue Mar 29, 2005 12:15 am

The marketplace, unfortunately, has caused myriad universities and colleges to downplay academic instruction of a traditional and broad caliber to accommodate largely vocational interests. Pizza, if you saw the marketing today that emerges from Ivy League and state colleges alike, you'd be more upset - I'm sure - than you are by the Churchills.

How many students do you think care a bit about Ward Churchill or the current controversy at Columbia about alleged anti-Semitic Mideast Studies faculty? I'm at the Columbia campus every Saturday and, believe me, most of the undergrads I've spoken to barely know the details and few care. This is not the riot-torn, activist Columbia of the Vietnam period.

My university (NOT my law school) aggressively markets "JIT Courses" which stands for "Just in Time," an attempt to get students, including those who already have degrees, into offerings immediately "relevant" to their lives.

At the law school level nationally, the ABA has approved students taking up to twelve credits online and this has led to booming competition to develop both synchronous and asynchronous courses. Whatever the merits of these developments, or lack thereof, trust me this is what the market (students) is interested in.

In the last four weeks my mailbox has been inundated - as many as twenty pieces of mail a day - from universities and colleges writing directly to my son because of his test score ranking and enrollment in the Columbia program. While all talk of their top faculty, the emphasis is on CAREER PREPARATION, not a broad liberal arts education.

I can't comment on how many faculty use the classroom as a pulpit. I don't even have a problem with that so long as all views are encouraged and nurtured. I do think Churchill is more of an aberration than some others here do.

At the law school level, many of us are so involved in using our legal skills as advocates for causes that the least interested student knows what we do and what we believe. I don't think that's a bad thing.

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Post by pizza » Tue Mar 29, 2005 3:27 am

Ralph wrote:The marketplace, unfortunately, has caused myriad universities and colleges to downplay academic instruction of a traditional and broad caliber to accommodate largely vocational interests. Pizza, if you saw the marketing today that emerges from Ivy League and state colleges alike, you'd be more upset - I'm sure - than you are by the Churchills.

How many students do you think care a bit about Ward Churchill or the current controversy at Columbia about alleged anti-Semitic Mideast Studies faculty? I'm at the Columbia campus every Saturday and, believe me, most of the undergrads I've spoken to barely know the details and few care. This is not the riot-torn, activist Columbia of the Vietnam period.

My university (NOT my law school) aggressively markets "JIT Courses" which stands for "Just in Time," an attempt to get students, including those who already have degrees, into offerings immediately "relevant" to their lives.

At the law school level nationally, the ABA has approved students taking up to twelve credits online and this has led to booming competition to develop both synchronous and asynchronous courses. Whatever the merits of these developments, or lack thereof, trust me this is what the market (students) is interested in.

In the last four weeks my mailbox has been inundated - as many as twenty pieces of mail a day - from universities and colleges writing directly to my son because of his test score ranking and enrollment in the Columbia program. While all talk of their top faculty, the emphasis is on CAREER PREPARATION, not a broad liberal arts education.

I can't comment on how many faculty use the classroom as a pulpit. I don't even have a problem with that so long as all views are encouraged and nurtured. I do think Churchill is more of an aberration than some others here do.

At the law school level, many of us are so involved in using our legal skills as advocates for causes that the least interested student knows what we do and what we believe. I don't think that's a bad thing.
It doesn't matter what the student thinks or doesn't think. Most kids just out of high school are in no position to determine what may be the best course for their education. That's what parents and faculty advisors are for. The parents are the ones who foot the educational bill, contribute to the institution and otherwise offer financial support at the initial stage of the student's education. Most people aren't going to pay megabucks to have their kids subjected to brainwashing by nuts such as Ward Churchill regardless of their political views and there are plenty of crazies around who think they can get away with egregious tactics simply because they have tenure.

I'm not upset by marketing at all. Institutions of higher learning have always been academically competitive with one another and they will use every technique available to try to get what they believe are the best students. That hasn't changed since I was a freshman in college in the late '40s and I'm sure it existed long before that. Only the techniques have changed.

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Post by Ralph » Tue Mar 29, 2005 7:46 am

Pizza,

I'm younger than you and I applied to colleges in 60-61. In those days you sent away for a college catalog and if you were lucky your high school had a good college advisor. I went to what was then one of the best high schools in New York City and my advisor's input was marginally helpful, not much more. I was never contacted by any school, even after I got their catalogs.

I don't think you have any idea of the kind of marketing going on today. Videotapes, DVDs, phone calls from faculty and current students, discounts on accommodations to visit campuses - this is the rule, not the exception.

I have a list of accepted applicants for my school whom I'm expected to call and urge coming. This Saturday we have an all-day accepted applicant program featuring lunch with faculty and student leaders and a mock class for which each attendee who accepted our invitation received a short case to read. This isn't atypical or limited to law schools where the competition, right now, is hot and heavy.

And high school students of my generation, the more intellectual ones, were primed by great teachers to WANT a solid liberal arts education (I'm excluding those committed by their parents to med school). That's all gone today.

I don't know, from a law school perspective, where all the "crazies" you refer to teach. Most of the undergrad professors I know from university committee service or socially are committed to their disciplines and have no activist agenda. Perhaps the "crazies" are largely outside New York. I do think that a Ward Churchill gets so much publicity that it's easy to sweep broadly and suggest that he is simply a more outspoken exemplar of a chronic higher education problem. I doubt that's true.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Tue Mar 29, 2005 5:59 pm

Ralph wrote:In reality, America's accreditation agencies are the equivalent of faculty unions to a certain extent.
Duh!
It doesn't matter whether one likes that or not.
Well, we'll see what state legislatures have to say about that. Private universities will do what they will. But state schools will get new rules on tenure. You can bank on it. We're headed for a clash of wills between state legislatures and accreditation organizations. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see other accreditation organizations arise.
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Post by Ralph » Tue Mar 29, 2005 10:41 pm

Corlyss_D wrote:
Ralph wrote:In reality, America's accreditation agencies are the equivalent of faculty unions to a certain extent.
Duh!
It doesn't matter whether one likes that or not.
Well, we'll see what state legislatures have to say about that. Private universities will do what they will. But state schools will get new rules on tenure. You can bank on it. We're headed for a clash of wills between state legislatures and accreditation organizations. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see other accreditation organizations arise.
*****

Corlyss,

There have been MANY threats by state legislatures to regulate tenure, even to fire individual faculty. Every one has quietly disappeared. Not one has ever materialized.

Don't you realize that the students' futures depends upon accreditation by accepted organizations? Why do you think non-accredited law schools aren't taken seriously and few states permit their graduates to even take the Bar? I've seen university presidents back off when the ABA or the AALS raise a serious standards issue.

Not that long ago the University of Arizona Law School admitted a convicted murderer who was paroled as a model and presumably rehabilitated person. State representatives threatened to cut off funds and/or set by law admission standards. It made all the news media. What didn't was the legislators learning that accreditation would be lost if that happened. End of that. Would YOU have enrolled in a law school and spent three (four) years of your life for a meaningless degree?

It doesn't matter whether you agree or not - I'm talking a reality backed by 31 years of experience.

And apart from any issues about Churchill per se, just what was (is) wrong with CU's tenure process? I haven't seen a single report that analyzes their process independent of Churchill.

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