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Sacrificing the First Amendment for the Status Quo

Ward Churchill and the Regents at the University of Colorado

by NATSU SAITO

Thanks to all of you for your continuing support and recent e-mails. We are energized and encouraged to see how many people realize that yesterday’s 8-to-1 decision of the University of Colorado Regents to fire Ward Churchill was not about a few footnotes, but instead about suppressing historical truths and dissenting speech. (For a fairly good recap, see www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=07/07/25/145254; there will be updates at www.wardchurchill.net.)

Some have said it was a sad day for academic freedom. It is sad when Cindy Carlisle becomes the lone courageous Regent for saying that the faculty review panel’s recommendation shouldn’t have been overridden by CU President Hank Brown. But did anyone really expect an elected body in Colorado to suddenly manifest backbone, when they had been instructed to fire Ward by Governors Owens and Ritter and the state legislature, and were under tremendous pressure from CU’s big donors?

For me, the bad days are when we sit by and let the attorney general intimidate us into a collective silence; when we allow torture, disappearances and arbitrary detentions to become routine; when we insist that this is a democracy, but refuse to accept any responsibility for the actions of the government. The sad days are when our kids are punished or humiliated in school for refusing to celebrate this country’s genocidal history; when we get glimpses of other people’s children being reduced to "collateral damage."

In Ward’s case, any pretense of academic freedom, to say nothing of due process, evaporated when the charade of a "research misconduct" investigation was allowed to proceed, with the apparent sanction of so many "liberal" academics like the National AAUP. It was long gone by last week, when CU refused to investigate the numerous charges of falsification and plagiarism in the very report upon which Ward’s dismissal was based.

Yesterday that charade was consummated and today our amazing attorney David Lane filed suit. We look forward to the day when a jury can decide whether the citizens of Colorado are as willing as the University to sacrifice the First Amendment for the status quo.

Ward and I appreciate your support in this small piece of the struggle to keep critical thinking alive,  and look forward to working with you on this and many other fronts.

Natsu Taylor Saito can be reached at: natsu.saito@gmail.com