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Ward Churchill's academic freedom

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My position is not that all public employees must be fired, only that their supposed contractual "right" to a tax-funded position is morally invalid.  In theory, they could work for free. With regard to Churchill, I've made it clear that if some private donor wishes to endow the creep, fine.

No one in the public or private sector has a "right" to employment, tax funded or not, that goes without saying. Even if Churchill didn't recieve a nickel of income from CU, he still shouldn't have the platform there to voice his awful views.

 

I'm not aware of any law that requires an institution to fire employees who advocate violence against the United States government.  On the other hand, if CU requires a loyalty oath of its instructors, and if Churchill's essay constitutes a violation of such, then firing him would not break the "valid agreement between a university and a teacher," that we have been told must be respected.

Why does there need to be a law? If you went to your job and openly advocated violence against the government or citizens your employer would have every reason to fire you. The situation is no different here. There's nothing magical about employment at a college, even if you're tenured (aside from that, Churchill’s tenure is of dubious validity).

The essay that has received national attention is only a small piece of the disgusting Churchill puzzle. If you care to find out, check the link that I provided in post #2 and listen to some of the sound bytes from some of his lectures.

There is indeed a loyalty oath that CU professors (I'm not sure if its tenured professors only) must sign to "uphold the Constitution of the United States". The university has been unable to produce the document to verify if Churchill has signed it. If he has, he could be fired for violating it. If he has not, he should be fired tomorrow.

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No one in the public or private sector has a "right" to employment, tax funded or not, that goes without saying.  Even if Churchill didn't recieve a nickel of income from CU, he still shouldn't have the platform there to voice his awful views.

I think one can make the case that since every part of the CU campus is to some extent tax-funded, Professor Churchill, even if privately endowed, would be the recipient of tax benefits if he taught at CU. And, further, since there is no “right” to such tax-funded benefits as classroom space, Churchill’s contract to teach need not be honored.

Why does there need to be a law?  If you went to your job and openly advocated violence against the government or citizens your employer would have every reason to fire you.  The situation is no different here.  There's nothing magical about employment at a college, even if you're tenured (aside from that, Churchill’s tenure is of dubious validity).

First of all, from what I gather, Churchill did not go to his “job and openly advocate violence against the government or citizens.” His appalling essay about “roosting chickens” and “little Eichmanns” appeared in a private, non-University publication. (If Churchill did make similar comments on the job site, he may have violated some university by-law which might legally invalidate his employment contract.) Furthermore, I am not convinced that openly advocating violence against the government or citizens would nullify existing, legitimate employment contracts unless they expressly forbade such expressions. Thus, if Churchill had a contract to do work with strictly a private sector institution for, say, the next two years, that contract could not be unilaterally terminated by his employer if Churchill adhered to the terms of it. If he were a pitcher for the Mets, management could certainly remove him from the team, but they couldn’t withhold any promised payment.

The essay that has received national attention is only a small piece of the disgusting Churchill puzzle.  If you care to find out, check the link that I provided in post #2 and listen to some of the sound bytes from some of his lectures.

There is indeed a loyalty oath that CU professors (I'm not sure if its tenured professors only) must sign to "uphold the Constitution of the United States".  The university has been unable to produce the document to verify if Churchill has signed it.  If he has, he could be fired for violating it.  If he has not, he should be fired tomorrow.

As I have said in this thread, the "valid agreement between a university and a teacher" has no moral standing if it is premised on tax funding. That is in itself sufficient reason to deny Churchill a paid position at CU. As far as I’m concerned, university administrators can justify taking him off the payroll for having ears that are too big or eyes that are too narrow.

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First of all, from what I gather, Churchill did not go to his “job and openly advocate violence against the government or citizens.”  His appalling essay about “roosting chickens” and “little Eichmanns” appeared in a private, non-University publication.  (If Churchill did make similar comments on the job site, he may have violated some university by-law which might legally invalidate his employment contract.)

What if these essays were required text for his class? What if he missed work to go somewhere else to make a hate speech? It does not matter whether he did it at his job or not. He can still be held responsible for things he does outside his job, especially if he represents himself as a CU professor.

  Furthermore, I am not convinced that openly advocating violence against the government or citizens would nullify existing, legitimate employment contracts unless they expressly forbade such expressions. 
This is from the CU Laws of Regents:

5.D.2 Faculty Responsibility

(A) Faculty members have the responsibility to maintain competence, exert themselves to the limit of their intellectual capacities in scholarship, research, writing, and speaking; and to act on and off the campus with integrity and in accordance with the highest standards of their profession.

Thus, if Churchill had a contract to do work with strictly a private sector institution for, say, the next two years, that contract could not be unilaterally terminated by his employer if Churchill adhered to the terms of it.  If he were a pitcher for the Mets, management could certainly remove him from the team, but they couldn’t withhold any promised payment.
Churchill does not have a contract with a private sector institution, why bring it up?

   

As I have said in this thread, the "valid agreement between a university and a teacher" has no moral standing if it is premised on tax funding.  That is in itself sufficient reason to deny Churchill a paid position at CU.  As far as I’m concerned, university administrators can justify taking him off the payroll for having ears that are too big or eyes that are too narrow.

Why do you keep falling back on the issue about the tax funding? If you want to make this a tax funding issue, no employment at any state university is valid. In our current governmental system, you can not make this argument. In the context of this issue, it does not apply.

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State ownership of universities is very much the issue in the Ward Churchill furor.  If Churchill were employed by a strictly private sector institution, his critics could decry his 9/11 writings but would have no grounds for demanding his firing.  For example, I may not like what Paul Krugman or William Safire say in the New York Times, but I can't demand that the Times fire them based on my disagreement.  Churchill is a different matter.  It is because his employment is financed with state and federal tax money that those who contribute (involuntarily) to his salary have a valid reason for calling for his dismissal.  No citizen should have to finance views that he disagrees with.  No one should have to provide a platform for one's ideological enemy.

Of course, this principle applies not only to Churchill but to every other tax-funded employee.  I should not be required to fund (via taxation) any professor who believes in the income tax, anti-trust law, the minimum wage, federal housing, the Federal Reserve, farm subsidies, or even government schools.

So ARI and Onkar Ghate have the correct analysis: "We are right in objecting to being forced to fund their ideas, loathsome or otherwise. The only solution, however, is a free market in education."  Yet, a portion of Ghate's message is wrong-headed:  "But it is no solution for the government to put pressure (or worse) on public universities whenever a professor teaches ideas opposed to the views of a majority of taxpayers. The moment the government becomes arbiter of what can and cannot be taught on campus, the moment speech becomes subject to majority vote, censorship results."

I find it surprising that Ghate does not understand that government's being an arbiter of what can and cannot be taught on campus is the inevitable result of government financing of schools.  The power to subsidize is the power to control.  To think otherwise is utopian day-dreaming.

Also in a private university you have various boosters, alumni associations, and various other sponsors who often have a large financial stake in that university - and as such they weild a lot of power and influence. Than there are the parents of kids who with their tuition money have alot of input. Yeah, state universities have boosters and alumni associations as well, but the percentage of monies from these groups tends to be at a lesser percentage as one would find in the private sector.

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What if these essays were required text for his class?  What if he missed work to go somewhere else to make a hate speech?  It does not matter whether he did it at his job or not.   He can still be held responsible for things he does outside his job, especially if he represents himself as a CU professor.

Having made it clear that I favor immediately terminating Churchill’s employment (i.e., tax subsidization), I can say that it does not matter to me what grounds the University bases its dismissal on. However, in a strictly privately funded institution, Churchill would have a sound case if his dismissal were based on grounds other than the precise terms of his contract. If nothing in his contract forbade him to miss class to give a “hate speech” (however defined), his employer could not invalidate their formal agreement.

Churchill does not have a contract with a private sector institution, why bring it up?

Because you brought it up. Earlier you wrote, “If you went to your job and openly advocated violence against the government or citizens your employer would have every reason to fire you” [empasis added]. The problem with this is that under certain employment contracts in the private sector, a “reason” to fire is not necessarily a “right” to fire. For example, in some contracts an employer may or may not have legal grounds to terminate the contract on the basis of what the employee wrote or said. Professional athletes and movie stars have contracts which obligate them to perform certain services for a specified period of time in exchange for a specified monetary reward. If the wording of their contracts does not provide for voiding on the basis of what the employee writes in a magazine or says at a lectern, then they must be honored in spite of what the employee espouses.

Why do you keep falling back on the issue about the tax funding?

Because that is the only thing that gives you and me a rightful voice in the Churchill affair. If Churchill were employed by an independent, privately funded institution, we could decry his opinions but would have no basis to demand his dismissal. It’s because Churchill is getting our funds, either via Colorado or federal taxes, that we have a legitimate say in whether he continues to collect a CU salary.

If you want to make this a tax funding issue, no employment at any state university is valid.

Delighted to agree with you.

In our current governmental system, you can not make this argument.

If you are arguing that the current statist regime does not support property rights, I fully agree. But I have never said otherwise in this thread or on Objectivism Online.

In the context of this issue, it does not apply.

Sure it does. Moral law always applies, even when legal authorities do not honor it.

Edited by Tom Robinson

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According to Wikipedia, Ward Churchill was fired a couple of years after he write the article. The university claimed he was not fired for the comment, but for other misconduct. A jury disagreed and concluded that he was indeed fired for his controversial article about the 9/11 victims. (But, he was not reinstated on other technical legal grounds.)

 

Over the years, most protest against the views of professors come from the left. FIRE has been fighting this for over 15 years. Recently, there has been a little more protest from left-leaning professors as well (See this recent Vox article), which might indicate the fad (of being grievously offended) has run its course. 

 

So, in retrospect, was the university right to fire Ward?

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The jury finding that #31 mentions was vacated. 

Thanks for pointing that out. The Wikipedia article implied that the key reason was that the university had "quasi-judicial immunity". However, the linked article suggests that the judge found academic misconduct.

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