Professor defends research despite controversy

DENVER – Yesterday, a jury began deliberating a lawsuit in which a former University of Colorado professor claims he was fired for writing an essay likening some Sept. 11 victims to the Nazis’ Holocaust architect, Adolf Eichmann. The school says it fired Ward Churchill in 2007 because he plagiarized and misrepresented sources in his academic research, but he says the school was looking for an excuse after the uproar over the essay. Churchill’s attorney, David Lane, told jurors in closing arguments that Churchill was fired for criticizing the ‘master narrative’ of history. University attorney Patrick O’Rourke said Churchill’s firing was fair and that he is using a free speech argument to excuse his fraud. Churchill’s essay called the World Trade Center victims ‘little Eichmanns.’ It was written in 2001 but attracted little attention until 2005, when critics publicized it after Churchill was invited to speak at Hamilton College in upstate New York. University officials said then that Churchill’s remarks were protected by the First Amendment, but they launched an investigation into his scholarly writings. University officials say the faculty committees found a pattern of research misconduct that included plagiarism, fabricated research on Native Americans and an article Churchill wrote under someone else’s name and then later cited it in support of his work. Lane told jurors that Churchill did nothing wrong, but even if the research misconduct allegations were true, the question they must answer is whether he was fired as retribution for the Sept. 11 essay. Churchill testified last week that he didn’t mean his comments to be hurtful to Sept. 11 victims. He said he was arguing that ‘if you make it a practice of killing other people’s babies for personal gain … eventually they’re going to give you a taste of the same thing.’