Friday, February 25, 2005

Ward Churchill Has Bad Breath From All The Bull Shit He Spits Out

Isn't it ironic that a man who trampled on the free speech rights of Italian-Americans marching in the Columbus Day parade, now hides behind the First Amendment to save his job at the University of Colorado? Let's make one thing clear: this is not a First Amendment issue. As an American citizen, Ward Churchill can defame the memory of Americans murdered on 9/11 and spew his brand of mindless bile without fear of legal prosecution because the First Amendment prohibits Congress from making laws that abridge his freedom of speech. But this isn't a criminal matter; it's an employment issue, and his employer, CU-Boulder, should be free to fire him for his hateful, absurd and grossly insensitive utterances. Liberty is not license. Freedom of speech is not absolute.

In a recent Denver Square strip by Rocky Mountain News editorial cartoonist, Ed Stein, the ever-liberal mom character is complaining about Gov. Bill Owens' criticism of potty-mouthed University of Colorado Indian pretender Ward Churchill. Even though mom is outraged at Churchill's ravings, she thinks it's even worse that government might decide which ideas can come out of our state university. As usual, liberal mom is emoting, not reasoning. The University of Colorado is a government enterprise. What happens there is a legitimate matter of public policy. CU has an elected board of regents accountable, first and foremost, to the citizens who put them in office. The administrators and faculty are employees, not owners. The school belongs to the people of this state. At the heart of the Churchill dispute is the question of accountability. In their supreme arrogance, the tenured-left professoriate wishes to be insulated from outside scrutiny, accountable to no one. They see themselves as philosopher kings, oracles dispensing their great thoughts to the unenlightened masses. If Churchill is any example, lunacy, paranoia, hysteria and hate are now masquerading as wisdom. If they want autonomy, if they want to make their own rules and do their own thing, let them start their own university and acquire their own funding. As long as they suck at the public teat, the public is wholly within its rights to attach strings to such funding. The higher education establishment can't have it both ways. I have no interest in giving such people a blank check, either intellectually or financially. Owens is right to criticize. The inmates simply can't be trusted to run roughshod over the institution. The First Amendment says that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. The CU Regents are not Congress. They can and should exercise their authority. And CU's tenure provisions aren't a law; they're policy. Freedom of speech is not absolute and neither is academic freedom. The assertion that CU instructors, as government employees, are free to say whatever they want with impunity stretches the First Amendment out of all recognition. Constitutional scholar Bruce Fein cites Waters v. Churchill and Jeffries v. Harleston as case-law precedents dispelling this notion. In Jeffries, a federal court upheld the demotion of a radical, black studies professor at the City College of New York who repeatedly spewed anti-white and anti-Semitic rants. There are appropriate boundaries of reasoned discourse, propriety, professionalism and decency that justifiably restrict speech in a college environment. When people violate those boundaries, be they teachers or students, there are consequences. Students who have been sentenced to remedial courses of sensitivity or diversity training for politically incorrect speech know this only too well. For leftist administrators and faculty members who have encouraged or countenanced this kind of Maoist reprogramming, ironically, the chickens - in the immortal words of Ward Churchill - have come home to roost. This time, however, with justification. Some Churchill critics have plausibly argued that he shouldn't be fired; that he does more damage to the radical-left cause by staying at CU as an object of scorn and ridicule; that firing him would only make him a martyr. There's some merit to this position. But a martyr to whom? To like-minded sycophants and malcontents? Who cares what they think? I look forward to the day when Churchill's hero, Osama bin Laden, can be promoted from living mass murderer to dead martyr. The problem is that if Churchill isn't fired, he and his apologists can claim that his preposterous ideas have been validated as legitimate academic thought. It would also perpetuate the myth that this kind of speech is protected by the First Amendment, academic freedom or tenure. This is a great opportunity to settle that issue all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary. If he's fired, let him sue. I look forward to it. There are those of us who've been fighting the tyranny of the tenured left for years. The best part of this Churchill incident is that it's raised the level of consciousness of a great many Coloradans who hadn't been sufficiently sensitive to this issue in the past. Churchill is just the tip of the iceberg at CU and other state schools. If he's fired, and even more so if he's not, the public mood may now be ripe for tackling the bigger issues like tenure reform; the pruning of frivolous departments such as Churchill's; and the woeful underrepresentation of mainstream conservatives on faculty.
Let's roll!