Prepared by Carlos Rueda:
This morning’s session began with testimony from Mr. Churchill’s wife, Ms. Natsu Taylor Saito. She was a witness for the plaintiff. Mr. Lane started by asking her about her profession. She is currently a professor at Georgia State University’s College of Law. She has an interest in “critical race theory,” the history of groups of color, and legal history of American Indians. Prior to her current tenure at Georgia State University, she worked at the University of Colorado’s Department of Ethnic Studies.
Mr. Lane asked her about the 9/11 essay Mr. Churchill wrote and published on a website. Ms. Saito said that she and Mr. Churchill were together in Atlanta the morning of the attacks and watched it unfold on TV. She continued to explain that Mr. Churchill reacted to the media’s characterization of the attacks as “senseless.” Ms. Saito said Mr. Churchill thought calling and characterizing the attacks “senseless” was incorrect because such attacks, in some way, made sense to the terrorists. Therefore, in order to prevent such attacks in the future, Mr. Churchill wanted to understand the reasons behind the terrorist’s actions. She stated that Mr. Churchill wrote the 9/11 Essay in Atlanta following the attacks.
Next, Mr. Lane asked Ms. Saito how she perceived the Ethnic Studies Department at CU. She said that at the beginning it seemed the administration thought the department was valuable. She accepted a full-time tenured position at the department. Mr. Lane then asked her to explain tenure. She said it meant a position that can only be revoked in limited situations, such as sexual harassment, and that tenure was meant to protect the freedom of speech and academic thoughts of professors from political pressures. She stated that tenure allows scholars to freely publish their thoughts without worrying about their jobs. Mr. Lane then asked Ms. Saito whether tenure was under attack under Governor Owens. She answered with an unequivocal “yes.” She said faculty members were afraid their academic freedom protections would end, and that they were also afraid of losing their programs and tenure.
Moving on, Mr. Lane asked her how Mr. Churchill’s 9/11 essay exploded. Ms. Saito said that it was a “shock” because it became news in 2005, and the essay was published in 2001. People and media started calling and visiting their home. They started receiving emails and phone messages with baseless allegations and racist remarks. Mr. Lane showed several emails to the jury. One of them read as follows: “Tell Ward my ancestors killed a lot of Indians and I am proud of it.”
Mr. Lane asked Ms. Saito whether she looked to CU for protection. She said yes, the members of the Ethnic Studies Department wrote a letter to the administration indicating that the tenure system and ethnic studies were under attack, and that the university needed to back them up because racism was not correct. She said they attached numerous copies of several threatening, racist emails to the letter. Ms. Saito and the department wanted the University’s administration to create a public statement indicating that the Department of Ethnic Studies was important to CU and that anti-Indian, anti-Arab, anti-Black and all types of racism were unacceptable. CU, however, never made that public statement denouncing racism or stating the importance of ethnic studies.
Finally, Mr. Lane questioned Ms. Saito about the impact the research misconduct investigation had on Mr. Churchill and her. She stated that it was “exhausting and frustrating.” She went on to say that it was “painful to see all the people come out of nowhere and attack you;” that even the University was attacking him. Ms. Saito stated that the investigation was bad for their health. For example, Mr. Churchill was working 18 hours per day trying to keep their life from falling apart. She started to commute to Atlanta after she resigned from CU. Book deals and speaking engagements started to disappear. What was most hurtful, Ms. Saito said, was not only to see his reputation unjustly tarnished, but his life’s work be destroyed. She said it wasn’t about the money, that it was about Mr. Churchill’s work. That Mr. Churchill’s work constituted decades of telling the history of the American Indian and he was one of the most cited scholars in the field. That the baseless accusations by CU, the media, and people from the public, essentially vanished the story of American Indians told by Mr. Churchill for decades. The cross-examination of Ms. Saito was uneventful. In cross-examination, counsel for the defense only asked a couple of questions of no consequence.
Ms. Saito was the last witness for Mr. Churchill; the plaintiff rested his case.
The next witness was Dr. Gleeson, witness for the defense. Dr. Gleeson is the Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences at CU. He was the Dean of the College while Mr. Churchill was the Department head for the Department of Ethnic Studies.
The direct examination began by counsel for the defense asking Dr. Gleeson about his duties as dean. He said his duties were primarily managerial, and to oversee the direction of the college. He had been there for 8 years. Asked about the Department of Ethnic Studies, he said that he allowed the department to grow by hiring more faculty. Then he was asked whether Mr. Churchill received good job reviews; he said yes, that he was a popular teacher and received “satisfactory” reviews.
Counsel for the defense moved to ask about the period regarding the uproar about Mr. Churchill’s 9/11 website essay. Dr. Gleeson said that he, CU and the College started receiving a flood of emails from the public. People were asking for Mr. Churchill’s dismissal and some faculty were asking for protection. Dr. Gleeson said that he talked to the Chancellor and was told to consult with the law school in order to craft a response.
Dr. Gleeson was asked how it all started. He said that at first all the attention focused on the 9/11 essay, but then the attention moved to Mr. Churchill’s scholarship and whether he was advocating violence against the government. He said that CU started reviewing the emails it received from the public to determine whether they had some validity. From the emails they gathered and reviewed, he said, several allegations did probably have some validity. He said that is how the investigatory committee was created. Once the committee was created he had nothing to do with the investigation regarding the allegations of misconduct. He said that he only read the report once it was finished. Asked how he reacted to the report, Dr. Gleeson said he was impressed by the depth of the report and shocked at the conclusion.
Dr. Gleeson was asked why they didn’t just dismiss the allegations from the public. He said that as university officials they had a duty to investigate any alleged misconduct on the part of the faculty. He stated there was no difference between an allegation of sexual harassment and an allegation of academic misconduct. Dr. Gleeson agreed that most of the allegations originated from Mr. Churchill’s enemies and critics, however, he said that how a person feels is irrelevant if the allegations are correct. He also testified that parents threatened not to enroll their children at CU and fundraising was in danger.
On cross-examination, Mr. Lane started by publishing to the jury a grading scale between grades A to F, with corresponding adjectives, such as “Outstanding” for A, “Good” for B, “Satisfactory” for C, and so on. Mr. Lane asked Dr. Gleeson whether Mr. Churchill’s review rated him as “Satisfactory.” Mr. Gleeson said yes. Mr. Lane asked that such review would be equivalent to a “C.” Mr. Gleeson said not for purposes of employee review because he was not using Lane’s grading scale, but yes for purposes of Mr. Lane’s grading scale published to the jury. Mr. Lane then published a letter from Dr. Gleeson to Mr. Churchill. In the signed letter May 4, 2004 Dr. Gleeson commended Mr. Churchill with phrases such as “We are pleased to recognize your outstanding contribution to scholarship and teaching in the area of Native American studies.” The letter went on to say that CU was very interested in retaining him and consequently, his salary will be raised to $92,000, “contingent on you remaining a member of the faculty of the UCB faculty.”
Lane asked if he wrote the letter characterizing Churchill’s research as outstanding, not merely satisfactory. Gleeson said he probably did not draft it. Lane said, “But can’t we assume by you signing this letter that you have read the letter and endorsed at the statements contained therein.” Gleeson said “Yes.” Clearly, Lane’s line of questioning served the dual purpose of showing how Gleeson’s assistant ghost wrote the letter for Gleeson similar to Churchill’s ghost writing.
Lane then directed Gleeson to his testimony earlier in the morning on direct examination that the Churchill 9/11 essay was not well reasoned and thus the basis of his criticism. Lane used this opportunity to explain to Gleeson Churchill’s reasoning: that “When you are greasing the American economic oppression wheels, the consequence could be 13 year old children working in Indonesian sweatshops.” Isn’t this well reasoned to explain the connection between the 9/11 victims and “little Eichmanns.” Gleeson said it is not a very “robust” argument and Lane said it could not be any more robust and moved on.
Next, Lane put on the screen the statement by the Board of Regents on February 2, 2005 and had Gleeson focus on the following provision:
Within the next 30 days, the Office of the Chancellor will launch and oversee a thorough examination of Professor Churchill’s writing, speeches, tape recordings and other works. The purpose of this internal review is to determine whether Churchill may have overstepped his bounds as a faculty member, showing cause for dismissal as outlined in the Laws of the Regents.”
Gleeson stated that this provision represented concern over whether Churchill advocated violence against the government, but allegations were more widespread and not limited to the 9/11 essay. Lane challenged this assertion by bringing up Gleeson’s testimony before the Privilege & Tenure Committee in which Gleeson in the video says in response to the following question: “Any other reason besides the 9/11 essay when you (Gleeson) were solicited to put all this in motion. Gleeson said “No” and seemingly contradicted his prior statement on the stand. Gleeson explained that at the time he was solicited by the Chancellor, only the 9/11 essay was on the table for consideration, but by the time his committee was convened, he received new allegations related to research misconduct.
Lane then asked about the language in the Board of Regents Statement regarding “a thorough examination of Professor Churchill’s writing, speeches, tape recordings, and other works. Lane questioned that didn’t this amount to in essence an indication to “get Churchill by looking at everything.” Gleeson countered that “thorough” does not mean everything will be looked at.
Finally, Mr. Lane questioned Dr. Gleeson about the disruptions Dr. Gleeson testified about during direct examination were caused by Mr. Churchill. Mr. Lane asked him whether he knew of any student that missed classes or professors that canceled classes because of Mr. Churchill. Dr. Gleeson said no. Mr. Lane asked whether the Boulder Police was ever called to campus because of Mr. Churchill, Dr. Gleeson said no. Whether CU suffered any disruption in fund raising, Dr. Gleeson said no. Whether any parents did not enroll their children because of Mr. Churchill? No. Mr. Lane asked him what really were the disruptions. Dr. Gleeson admitted that only emails and phone calls constituted the bulk of the disruptions.