The AP is reporting tonight that a Colorado jury has returned a verdict in favor of Ward Churchill's wrongful firing lawsuit against the University of Colorado. Folks may recall that Churchill provoked controversy for a 2001 essay in which he characterized the 9/11 victims as "little Eichmanns," but he was eventually fired by the university following allegations of plagiarism and academic misconduct. Here's the lede from the article:
A jury ruled Thursday that the University of Colorado wrongly fired the professor who compared some Sept. 11 victims to a Nazi, a verdict that gives the professor $1 and a chance to get his job back.
More tidbits on the flip
Churchill and his lawyer are portraying the verdict as a victory for the First Amendment, while the university's spokesperson minimized its significance:
"(The verdict) doesn't change the fact that more than 20 of his faculty peers found that he engaged in plagiarism and other academic misconduct," McConnellogue said.
He said the jury's $1 damage award sends a message about the merits of Churchill's civil claims.
Churchill's lawyer pointed out the university is also liable for "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in lawyers' fees.
While a judge has yet to rule on whether the university will be forced to reinstate Churchill -- who was fired despite having tenure -- the former Republican governor Bill Owens came off in the trial as a thug, bullying the university into pushing Churchill out.
Betsy Hoffman, who was president of the university at the time, had testified that Owens pressured her to fire Churchill and said he would "unleash my plan" when she told him she couldn't.
One more sign the Bush years have come to an end. No matter what you think of Churchill's scholarship and politics, the manner in which he lost his job stands as yet another example of the Republican politicization of every aspect of American life, in this case sacrificing academic freedom to the demands of state power.