Monday, June 25, 2007

ACTA President Anne D. Neal Defends Free Speech

The President of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) Anne D. Neal has published an excellent defense of academic freedom called "Academic Freedom Needs Defending — From Ward Churchill" [Inside Higher Education, 6-19-07]. President Neal makes the important point that the University of Colorado's investigation of Ward Churchill is, in fact, a defense of academic freedom:

The arguments of Churchill and his misguided defenders do — regrettably — arise from a basic conviction that academics should be free from accountability. They involve manipulating the term “academic freedom” in ways that undermine a concept of foundational importance to the academic enterprise. They amount to an attempt to turn the concept inside out — morphing what was originally a cluster of interlocking privileges and responsibilities centered on the public good into a justification for the false idea that academics have no obligation to the public at all. Finally, they stem from the profoundly mistaken premise – which Brown rebuts in his letter to the Board of Regents – that input from the public, from constituencies such as alumni and trustees, violates academic freedom as well. Why else would Churchill and his defenders absurdly claim that Brown’s advisory role with the American Council of Trustees and Alumni — which ended a decade ago — invalidates his opinion?

Far from being an “attack” on academic freedom, Colorado’s handling of the Churchill affair is, in fact, in defense of academic freedom. [Full text]

I have posted some of my opinions about Ward Churchill following this IHE 6-19-07 article and following the earlier 5-30-07 article, too. Why should free speech be the exclusive perogative of Ward Churchill and his crew?

I am really grateful to President Neal and the ACTA for their leadership in articulating the real meaning of academic freedom. I am also grateful that Inside Higher Education has given me the opportunity to post my views in their comments section.

I am grateful to the brave Interim Chancellor of the University of Colorado at Boulder, Phil DiStefano, who recommended on June 26, 2006, that Ward Churchill be fired for research misconduct.

I am grateful for C.U. President Hank Brown's courage and for the hard work of C.U. committees that defended academic freedom, even if they were a little late to wake up to Ward Churchill's devious appropriation of honest scholars' voices. A lot of people have been tricked by Ward Churchill over the years.

Let Churchill have his free speech, but deny him the prestige of a tenured professorship because this makes people assume he is an honest scholar, not a propagandist. Give us back the voices of the honest scholars that this incredibly dishonest Churchill has mischaracterized, plagiarized, and hijacked for his own agenda!

A lot of scholars have stood up to Ward Churchill and have defended academic freedom from his dishonest "research" practices.

The American Council of University Professors (AAUP) boasts loudly that its core mission is "telling the truth in difficult times" and "protecting academic freedom." These are fine-sounding goals, but as I have noted in earlier posts, there is a big difference between protecting academic freedom and protecting a liar and a thug like Ward Churchill.

It seems to me that Ward Churchill is hypocritically mouthing the AAUP slogans for his own personal agenda. I hope AAUP President Cary Nelson will wake up and smell the coffee, but I don't think he will.

If the AAUP doesn't defend the American public from liars like Ward Churchill, then the public is not going to support protections for professors like tenure. Tenure doesn't mean that a professor is always right, but it does require that he or she be honest. We all make honest mistakes, and we learn from our mistakes; but we don't learn anything from lies except to distrust the people we have put in positions of trust and leadership. Ward Churchill has abused that trust.

At this late date, professors who believe that they are protecting themselves by protecting Ward Churchill are either incredibly gullible or know that they are guilty of fraudulant research too.

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