Sunday, 20 February 2005

That other Churchill guy

I haven’t had much to say about Ward Churchill in a while, but this post by Stephen Green (þ: InstaPundit) lept out at me, mainly due to the Rocky Mountain News article Green dug up. Read it and weep.

BOULDER—Ward Churchill was rejected by two University of Colorado departments in 1991 before the communication department agreed to give him tenure. Even in the communication department, the chairman-elect was “uncomfortable” with the decision, according to documents released Friday by CU.

At the time, CU officials were shopping for a department that would accept Churchill, fearing they would lose him to another university.

In a memo to the communication faculty, Michael Pacanowsky, who was in line to become chairman, said Churchill needed to join a department, since the program that sponsored his Native American Studies courses did not have the authority to grant tenure.

“Ward’s file was circulated to sociology and political science, and they did not agree to roster him in their departments,” Pacanowsky wrote in an e-mail dated Jan. 10, 1991. “Because Ward’s graduate degree, an MA, was in communications, we were contacted next.”

The University of Colorado at Boulder is what us academics used to call a “Research I” institution (now it’s a “Doctoral-Research Extensive” institution under the Carnegie classification system, which is essentially equivalent). In other words, the job of UC-Boulder in academe is to do cutting-edge research and produce people with doctorates (and the undergraduate program is largely designed to subsidize those activities by bringing in tuition to subsidize research and giving you guinea pigs for your Ph.D. students to practice teaching on). You do that by hiring the best people with doctorates you can find. You don’t do that by hiring fake Indians who have produced questionable scholarship and don’t have terminal degrees just to engage in quota-filling exercises.

Don’t get me wrong—if Churchill’s only crime against academic society was being an offensive jackass, that might even be a qualification for granting him tenure. But shoddy scholarship and a tenure file shockingly bereft of what most academics would consider to be tenurable activity are another matter entirely.

1 comment:

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I don’t know how relevant this is, but here goes: there was a very, very intelligent professor at my ivy undergrad – a similar thing happened. Due to academic politics, this prof-who-shall-be-nameless wasn’t accepted by the department in which he would fit at any other institution (they wanted their department to start specializing in order to draw better phd students). He did eventually find a tenure-track position in another department, but campus politics really erupted for a while into an ugly debate over whether the dept. was racist.

I almost always think that the right’s hysteria over campus racial politics is silly nonsense, but there are definitely times when the racial stuff is highly incendiary, and can cause an otherwise rational administration to make some ill-considered moves.

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