July 06, 2005

Academic Strategy Tips for the Embattled Professor

a.k.a, When the long knives are out, it's best not to act like a smartass.

I wasn't sure whether to title this post "Ward Churchill Reveals Academic Inspiration: Madonna!" or possibly "Your 15 Minutes Were Over Six Months Ago" or even "Shameless Media Whore Milks One Trick Pony Live On Camera--Admission Fifty Cents," but I settled on the above because while I admit that I'm beyond tired of the one man freakshow that is Ward Churchill; like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, I can't look away. Perhaps Mr. Churchill would be so kind as to remove the eye clamps from our collective lids by acting like a rational human for, oh, five minutes? My fellow malchicks and I thank you.

But that would force Ward to give up the limelight. And as this article demonstrates, he's loath to do that. In fact, whenever the limelight is in danger of fading, Churchill does his damnedest to gin it up again, because while he's a crappy excuse for a scholar, he's at least savvy enough to know how to work the system (this ability pretty much explains his entire career, in fact). This time he's filing a complaint against himself, which is exactly the sort of thing those cocky counter-cultural kids did in 1969! Woo. Cue the cutting edge! Cue the revolution! Cue the self-absorbed baby boomer who hasn't quite come to grips with his total irrelevance! Seriously, dude. Grow up. You had a good run as a fake Indian, brave revolutionary, speaking truth to power charlatan in the academy--which incidentally is the only place on earth where you COULD have a run as a fake Indian, brave revolutionary cum con man. And now you're all set to translate that into a mediocre living gleaned from speaker's fees at anarchist dinner parties. But let's not pretend that what you're doing is intellectual, or original, or that the University of Colorado, in acting to save its reputation and its bottom line from the likes of you, is somehow persecuting its only authentic Cultural Critical Cassandra, or whateverthehell.

They're going to give you the boot, Ward. That's the way the academic cookie crumbles. And they're not going to suffer any consequences beyond a drop in enrollment from Anarchists R Us, because you'd better believe that the Board of Regents will have an army of lawyers on board every step of the way. You fought the law, and the law's gonna kick your ass all the way out of Boulder. You might not want to help them out by handing them the steel toed boots.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at July 6, 2005 11:34 AM

Meanwhile in the non-academic world the limelight is on Paris Hilton *bangs head against wall*

Posted by: Chris Martin at July 6, 2005 01:04 PM

Maybe we can put Ward and Paris in a rocket and launch them at the next comet that flies by...

Ah, well. As I used to tell my pissy Freshmen when they whined at me about how much work they had to do, "Show me on your birth certificate where it says life is fair."

In this case, the fact that America is a short attention span society is a very good thing.

Posted by: BAW at July 6, 2005 01:30 PM

I can't believe you didn't quote this:

Churchill, a tenured professor of ethnic studies, said the initial review will probably go against him because the committee is stacked with faculty from the hard sciences, which has different standards for evidence and interpretation than social sciences.
I have to say, I am a bit stunned at the honesty of that statement.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at July 6, 2005 02:33 PM


So much to quote, so little time. Blame it on temporary blindness caused by seeing an accurate description of the difference between social "science" and hard science.

Posted by: BAW at July 6, 2005 03:34 PM

AOG, if the standards of evidence in hard science were applied to anything outside of hard science, nothing could be said to be demonstrated. You can't evaluate literary criticism (even before deconstruction) by the standards of proof required in biology. His statement is true, and says nothing against the standards of the humanities or social sciences.

Posted by: Michael at July 7, 2005 10:09 AM

Michael...you might have a point as far as the traditional humanities go, but not with regard to the social sciences. The whole *point* of these disciplines was supposed to be bringing scientific reasoning to social problems. If they can't maintain scientific standards of evidence, there is no justification for their existence.

Posted by: David Foster at July 7, 2005 10:24 AM

Michael, the committee won't be evaluating his work as social science, but investigating the complaints against him "that he committed plagiarism, fabricated some research findings and falsely claimed to be an American Indian". Are you claiming that the standards for this kind of thing should be different depending on whether one is in a hard science or another field? As far as I can tell, Churchill's complaint is that this committee is likely to use logic to look at factual evidence, as opposed to a committee of his ilk which would just consider the politics of the situation.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at July 7, 2005 06:07 PM

Actually, AOG, I think he's asking them to investigate the charges about misuse of graduate students' research, or some such. I'm not sure the other things are on the table. No, I'm saying nothing about standards of proof as far as such charges go. I was making a more general point.

David, "scientific reasoning" and "scientific evidence" are entirely different. The social sciences at their best use scientific reasoning, but can only rarely use scientific evidence. You've made an unjustifiable leap between those two, and come to an insupportable conclusion.

Posted by: Michael at July 7, 2005 11:22 PM

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I think Ward Churchill is a fraud, a twit, and damn funny looking.

Posted by: Michael at July 7, 2005 11:23 PM

Michael...Huh? Are you suggesting that you can apply scientific reasoning without it being based on scientific evidence? Could you clarify a bit?

Posted by: David Foster at July 7, 2005 11:32 PM

David, I'm speaking of evidence that, when subject to experiment, leads to repeated, verifiable results. Perhaps we're using "evidence" in different ways?

Posted by: Michael at July 8, 2005 01:35 AM