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Churchill v. University of Colorado, Day #3, Morning Session

At 9:00am the Courtroom Six benches were speckled with about fifteen people. By the lunch break all the late risers had trickled in and the courtroom benches were almost full.

Today’s morning session began right where yesterday’s afternoon session left off. Former Chancellor DiStefano was still on the stand with O’Rourke continuing his cross-examination. The examination began with a question of how each of the different committees involved in the investigations were formed. The questioning quickly moved to DiStefano stating that he did not intentionally violate the confidentiality rules regarding giving information to the media. Rather there was confusion between DiStefano and the committee about breaking the rules and that the committee did not recommend any sanctions against DiStefano.

Next DiStefano briefly explained the roles and jobs of different CU employees such as a faculty member, a dean, a provost and a chancellor. Particularly he described the trust that must exist between the faculty and the administration in the shared governance scheme that CU employs. DiStefano reported that he had been chancellor for four days when calls, e-mails, and the like started coming in saying they could not support CU anymore because of things Ward Churchill had said. Additionally, CU faculty called upon DiStefano stating that he had an obligation to protect the faculty freedom and individual rights to free speech. DiStefano saw his role as “balancing both the rights of Churchill and the University.”

DiStefano stated that he started the initial examination of Churchill to understand the fundamental protections of faculty members as citizens. A report furnished by the University asked this question, “Did certain statements by Professor Churchill, made in his writing and speeches, exceed the boundaries of a public employee’s constitutionally protected free speech?” When asked if this was the question DiStefano set out to answer, he responded, “Yes.” After the initial investigation was complete, DiStefano stated that they found that Churchill’s statements were indeed protected by the First Amendment.

After the initial calls, DiStefano received a number of allegations that Churchill supported terrorists and inciting riots. Although there was no specific article mentioned, DiStefano stated, “It would have been irresponsible for me not to look into the allegations… [with] a thorough, deliberate, and thoughtful examination.”

The questioning then quickly turned to how the University had a duty to protect research misconduct. DiStefano relayed that numerous allegations were made against Churchill regarding violence and misrepresenting his Native American origins but that none of these allegations were ever passed on to a reviewing board; rather only allegations of research misconduct were ever addressed by a faculty reviewing board. DiStefano stated that when he received this report from the investigating committee that he, individually, did no research and relied fully on the committee’s report. Among other things, the committee found Churchill committed research misconduct in statements regarding the General Allotment Act of 1887 and the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. After reviewing the investigating committee’s report, the SCRM “were unanimous in concluding the severity of the infractions…[where as] six of the voting members recommended dismissal, two recommended suspension without pay for a five-year term, and one recommended suspension without pay for a two-year term.”

On redirect examination, Lane continually tried to impeach DiStefano regarding the semantics of the word, “manufacture.” Lane wanted DiStefano to admit that he had “manufactured” research misconduct allegations in that he had made them up and that they should not have existed or been investigated. On re-cross examination, O’Rouke was quick to show that when DiStefano used the word “manufactured” he meant that he was complying with review standards and was sending the allegations to the SCRM.

The entertaining witness of the morning was Mr. Robert Perkinson, former student of Churchill and current professor of American Studies at the University Hawaii Manoa. While rocking back and forth in his chair, Mr. Perkinson talked about his relationship with Churchill and how Churchill was his mentor. Mr. Perkinson said that it was really Churchill who steered him towards academia and scholarship. On cross-examination Mr. Perkinson was continually asked about if he knew the importance of using sources properly.

Mr. Perkinson stated he knew the importance but continued to mention that people who get terminated for plagiarism are usually not the subject of a governor’s witch-hunt. Mr. Perkinson only commented briefly on scholarship, because he did not want to go into such scholarly debates as “what is is?”, saying that standards for footnotes and citations are different depending on the audience and the place of publication. Finally Mr. Perkinson was asked if in his opinion Churchill’s scholarship remains intact. He answered with a resounding “yes.”

Reader Comments (1)

I find it interesting how people and churchill himself, have proclaimed him to be the "voice" for American Indians, yet Lane puts on the stand a white guy who's a former student. I know churchill has taught former students who are American Indian. If he was the champion for American Indians, how come his team isn't producing any?
March 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Kitty Kat Girl

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