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John Adams Blog

The blog of The Antient and Honourable John Adams Society, Minnesota's Conservative Debating Society www.johnadamssociety.org

Thursday, March 24, 2005

CU and Churchill

Hindrocket at Powerline and Michele Malkin both report on the University of Colorado’s report on Ward Churchill. They basically said his idiotic speech is not a fireable offense, but some of the other things he has been accused of need further looking into.

It looks to me like CU did this just right. Usually, I get pretty dismissive of people who overextend the First Amendment. Churchill does not have a constitutional right to say whatever he wants and still keep his job. The First Amendment applies to the government punishing ordinary citizens for speech. Losing your job, even your government job, over speech is not what the First Amendment is about. It’s about the government not putting you in jail over your speech. (Yes, I know that CU is a public university and thus, under our current courts’ interpretation, they are under a heavier First Amendment burden than a private university. But this is beside the point I am making and just seems to be another reason not to have public universities, but instead find other ways to support education and research.)

So why am I defending CU? Because universities, public or private, should be special. They are supposed to be places of free inquiry. They are supposed to be places where you can say basically anything. Tenure means you can’t be fired for your opinions, no matter how repugnant, period. A university shouldn't fire a tenured professor for saying "little Eichmanns" not because everyone should be free to say whatever they want without fear of getting fired, but because that is basically what the university agreed to when granting him tenure. That’s also why you should be careful about who you grant tenure (something not done in Churchill’s case).

Academic fraud, plagiary, pretending you’re an Indian when you’re not, these are things which should get you fired at a university, and Churchill looks, on the surface, to be plenty guilty enough to get fired for these things. But a deal is a deal. Tenure means you can say “little Eichmann’s” and not get fired.