Ward Churchill is
Neocon Test Case for Academic Purges
Emma Perez, Chair of Ethnic Studies, U of Colorado
February 15, 2005
We've done some preliminary research and analysis and it's become clear exactly
what's at stake and what we're up against. CU-Boulder has been made the national
frontline of the neocon battle for dominance in academe.
CU-Boulder has likely been made their "test case," their break-the-mould
moment in a national strategy. Their local resources and troops (thinktanks,
legislative, rank-and-file followers) are already fully mobilized and their
national resources are mobilizing in our direction (if not already mobilized),
and the infrastructure they already have here is formidable. On Ward's specific
case, they are already *at least* 3 weeks ahead of us in organizing, and
they are using tactics they have been testing since the 90s.
Some details from preliminary research:
* The CO governor, Governor Bill Owens, is no ordinary Republican governor.
He is an activist leader in their battle for higher education through his
role in ACTA (American Council of Trustees and Alumni).
ACTA is Lynn Cheney's organization, which hit the headlines a few years ago
for creating the rightwing National Assoc of Scholars (NAS) and for proposing
post-911 to monitor faculty nationwide for ideological (liberal/left) bias.
Gov. Owens is especially active in ACTA's "Governors Project". He has already
hosted an ACTA-led conference in CO for state trustees, probably for training
them (wouldn't be surprised if some of our regents aren't in this same loop).
He is already implementing the Governors Project strategy at less visible
institutions. For example, last month the trustee structure at Mesa State
College was revised and he appointed 3 new trustees, one of whom is "the
intermountain coordinator for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni
for teacher preparation reform."
Also leading in this "Governors Project" is Pataki in NY-no doubt connected
with the Hamilton College incident that started all of this.
* The general strategy in forcing and then manipulating this "investigation"
of Ward's scholarship shares key tactics with the neocon sinking of Emory
historian Bellesiles in 2001 www.oah.org/pubs. There are also likely to be
parallels with the campaign against Linda Brodkey at UT in 1991 as well as
other campaigns through which they have been testing and developing their
methods and tactics.
* Besides suggesting "treason" on the part of Ward and calling for
his firing, Governor Owens has already requested Ethnic Studies' budget,
one of the most important neocon institutional targets. In a parallel de-funding
move, see their successful campaign to pass H.R. 3077
Further, by going after Ward's tenure, they are essentially targeting the
scholarly legitimacy of the entire field that, through external and internal
review, granted Ward tenure. If Ward's tenure (and his promotion to Full,
and his successful post-tenure review) was a "mistake," the next question
is "who gave it to him?" Ultimately, by undermining the integrity of tenure
in one national field, the neocon Right will pave the way to an attack on
the very legitimacy of tenure as an institution. CU Regent Lucero did not
mince words in his public statement at the emergency meeting where the 30-day
investigation of Ward was announced:
"My displeasure with Mr. Churchill's essay should be abundantly clear, however,
the issues regarding faculty responsibilities are still my focus. While the
language in the Laws and Policies is in place, setting the standards for
faculty expectations and the grounds for discipline, I would argue that they
are subjective and dependent on the faculty for interpretation as to whether
a professor has crossed a line. I would suggest that the time has come for
a revision to the Policies that allows for other forms of adjudication that
are not reliant on the faculty for determining subjectively the fate of one
of their own. (Feb 3, 2005)"
* Neocon students at CU-B (College Republicans) are likely connected with
CampusWatch and/or AVOT (Americans for Victory against Terrorism); they are
already connected with a very hostile right-wing talk radio talk show host
in Denver (that is then feeding to the national level) and they have been
using tried-and-true CampusWatch/AVOT-type tactics to create the steady stream
of racist, violent hatemail that not only Ward, but ES faculty and students
* While we are confused and disoriented by the barrage of attacks, the state
legislature is already moving to get tenure changes written into the books.
The tactic is for Owens to make radical demands and push the envelope to
the right, opening up space for a conservative Democrat to propose a more
"moderate"-looking bill (Senate Bill 85, which includes tenure law changes)
that should, if they're smart, pass quickly and easily, possibly even before
the next Regents meeting. Reported in the Colorado Daily on Friday Feb 11,
the tenure changes appear minor but will be used as footholds for the next
deeper round(s) of legislative actions.
* The CU-Boulder administration seems well-intentioned but to have misjudged
the stakes and their opposition. They may have believed they could keep control
of the investigation by doing it in-house but the Right is already outflanking
them by using this investigation to launch an ideological show-trial; it's
a war of public opinion in which the administration has already been outmaneuvered.
By the end of 30 days, they could easily be backed into a corner, unable
to resist the Right's larger agenda. The Admin's investigation can find whatever
it wants (it could even decide to make no move against Ward), but by that
point, it won't matter because all the legislative momentum/power will be
out of their hands. Ultimately, the neocon agenda doesn't even have to succeed
in getting Ward's tenure revoked; the attack on Ward is only one key piece
of a larger campaign with several objectives beyond the firing of Ward.
* Ward is a prime target. He is vulnerable and, at the same time, has extremely
high strategic value. In terms of his vulnerability: he can be isolated from
support forces who would traditionally make it hard to attack a tenured faculty.
There are faculty who have problems with his being American Indian or who
have something against Ethnic Studies, etc etc-these faculty will be reluctant
or refuse to defend him (until it's too late). As a revolutionary, he can
be counted on to have a significant number of colleagues who strongly dislike
him and will be reluctant or refuse to defend him (until it's too late).
On top of all this, in the post-911 climate, moderates who would normally
disagree with his views but then go on to defend his free speech rights and
academic freedom, will hesitate because they are afraid of being cast in
with his "anti-americanism" (much like the McCarthy period). In terms of
his high value as a target (David Horowitz has already written on this):
he's not only tenured, but he's a full prof; he's not only inside ethnic
studies but he was chair; he's not in just any university in CO, he's at
the institutional flagship of "liberalism" in the middle of a red state.
We have to be as clear as possible about the big picture. This is much, much
bigger than an individual attack on Ward. What we're looking at is a carefully
developed, pre-existing national strategy that has been searching for exactly
the right breakthrough "test case." It has found extremely favorable conditions
in Ward's situation and in the post-911 climate. As they've been doing already
in other areas they want to dismantle the structural footholds (academic
freedom/tenure, ethnic studies) that social movements gained for people of
color and liberal and progressive intellectuals inside academe during the
60s & 70s. If they are successful in Colorado, it could set a precedent
like Bakke. Raising the stakes even higher, Governor Owens has ambitions
that reach as far as the White House. The next phases of his career hang
on this crucial campaign that will give definitive proof of his leadership
ability. If he pulls it off, it's a glorious triple coup-de-grace: undermine
the legal foundation of tenure/free speech, hurt/ruin Ethnic Studies...and
at no less than the strongest "liberal" campus in the state. His personal
investment in this campaign is very high and he is likely to throw his whole
weight behind it.
This is a fight to make history.