- www.counterpunch.org - https://www.counterpunch.org -

My Trial By Media

Bolder, Colorado.

On February 2, 2005, Colorado Governor Bill Owens called for me to be fired because of statements I made about U.S. foreign policy that were clearly protected by the First Amendment. It would have been illegal to do so then, and it is just as illegal today.

More than 16 months ago Governor Owens informed then-CU President Betsy Hoffman that his office would “work closely with her and the Board of Regents to terminate” me. A few weeks later President Hoffman expressed her fears of a “new McCarthyism” to the Boulder faculty, and a few days later she resigned. Apparently this message was not lost on the remaining CU administrators.

The fact that CU has spent over a year and a great deal of money conducting a sham investigation of “research misconduct” does not convert an otherwise illegal action into a legitimate one. In its determination to fire me, the University has continuously violated its own rules, the Regents’ laws on academic freedom, and the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of due process and equal protection. As today’s press release illustrates, CU administrators have conducted a “trial by media,” not a confidential personnel investigation. Today’s report is but the latest step in this process.

After encouraging malicious and frivolous allegations to be made, Interim Chancellor DiStefano, as complainant, submitted the resulting media stories as if they were his own allegations of research misconduct. These were then investigated by a committee which, over my objections, was dominated by CU insiders. That committee’s report has now been rubber stamped by the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct (SCRM), and SCRM’s approval will proceed back up the internal hierarchy to Interim Chancellor DiStefano for his approval.

Anyone who bothers to read the investigative committee’s unnecessarily long and obfuscatory report will see that the committee both deviated from and far exceeded its mandate to served as an unbiased, non-adversarial, fact-finding body. Instead, it functioned as prosecutor, jury and judge. Despite the availability of outside experts in my field, no one on the committee had expertise in American Indian Studies and the committee included no American Indians.

The investigative committee artificially constricted the time and manner of my responses and then disregarded the evidence I was able to present. It did not measure my work against the accepted practices of my discipline; instead it invented and applied a secret set of standards. Even so, it was unable to provide the required evidence that I violated relevant norms and, in the end, resorted to recommending harsh sanctions because I did not have the “right attitude.”

This process has not demonstrated that I engaged in any serious research misconduct but that, after more than a year of painstaking review, those charged with firing me could find nothing more than a few footnotes and questions of attribution to quibble over.

University of Colorado administrators have simply confirmed that they will shamelessly cater to political pressure, discarding the most basic principles of academic freedom in their attempt to silence me and discredit my work.