A court Tuesday upheld the University of Colorado’s firing of professor Ward Churchill after controversy arose from his essay which referred to victims of the 9/11 attacks as “little Eichmanns.” Judge Larry Naves ruled that Churchill would neither get his job back nor receive financial compensation. According to the LA Times, in ruling, the Judge stated “I am bound by the jury’s implicit finding that Professor Churchill has suffered no actual damages as a result of the constitutional violation.”
Churchill is vowing to appeal. The University of Colorado is going to bill Churchill over $10,000 for lawsuit costs.
In a June piece, “Ward Churchill Redux” National Coalition Against Censorship’s Executive Director Joan Bertin argues that academic institutions must be vigilant in protecting the free, political speech of it’s faculty. Bertin writes:
It is virtually inevitable that holders of unconventional or controversial views will be attacked on professional grounds. The consequent chilling effect on professors’ freedom to express political views is likewise predictable. To prevent this damaging sequence of events, universities and scholars should always defend colleagues’ right to hold and express controversial views as a matter of principle, regardless of whether they agree with them or respect their scholarship. …
Tolerance for politically unpopular views is not always evident on campuses, any more than it is in the world at large, but the university bears a special responsibility to protect freedom of thought and expression. The right to speak, write and think independently is at the core of higher education. It is up to members of the academy to convey this critical message not only to their students but to a larger community. This goal can be advanced if, in the future, similar controversies are addressed in a more deliberative fashion, with regard for all the interests and values at stake.
Some people have told him there are consequences to free speech. They don’t understand the concept, he said: “If there are consequences, it’s not free.”