The Empire Strikes Back

Insta links to a Rockey Mountain News column about a piece by Ward Churchill’s replacement as Chair of the Ethnic Studies Dept. at CU, Emma Perez, that appears in Counter Punch. I have several comments. Firstly, if the quality and tone of the RMN column are indicative of the quality of their service as a whole, I would subscribe in a heartbeat (if I didn’t live in NJ and not really lose much sleep over being out of the loop on Rocky Mountain issues); it’s quite excellent.
Secondly, let’s look at her article, “A Neocon Test Case for Academic Purges: The Attacks on Ward Churchill.”
(Previous posts on this topic here, here, here (sort of), here, here, here, here, and finally here. geesh…I had no idea)

We’ve done some preliminary research and analysis and it’s become clear exactly what’s at stake and what we’re up against. CU-Boulder has been made the national frontline of the neocon battle for dominance in academe.

Who is “we”, anyway?
Hmmm, has she been channeling Hillary?

CU-Boulder has likely been made their “test case,” their break-the-mould moment in a national strategy. Their local resources and troops (thinktanks, legislative, rank-and-file followers) are already fully mobilized and their national resources are mobilizing in our direction (if not already mobilized), and the infrastructure they already have here is formidable. On Ward’s specific case, they are already *at least* 3 weeks ahead of us in organizing, and they are using tactics they have been testing since the 90s.

Hmm, I guess she has. She fails to mention those of us in our pajamas, though. “Tactics they have been testing since the 90s.” Ah yes, the fiendish and soon-to-be-banned-by-the-Geneva-Convention one/two punch of quoting someone’s own words and researching the veracity of their claims.

Some details from preliminary research:
* The CO governor, Governor Bill Owens, is no ordinary Republican governor. He is an activist leader in their battle for higher education through his role in ACTA (American Council of Trustees and Alumni).

This is exciting, if you think about it, because she clearly states that “ordinary republicans” are not “activist leader(s) in their battle for higher education.” Awfully kind of her, really.

ACTA is Lynn Cheney’s organization, which hit the headlines a few years ago for creating the rightwing National Assoc of Scholars (NAS) and for proposing post-911 to monitor faculty nationwide for ideological (liberal/left) bias. Gov. Owens is especially active in ACTA’s “Governors Project”. He has already hosted an ACTA-led conference in CO for state trustees, probably for training them (wouldn’t be surprised if some of our regents aren’t in this same loop). He is already implementing the Governors Project strategy at less visible institutions. For example, last month the trustee structure at Mesa State College was revised and he appointed 3 new trustees, one of whom is “the intermountain coordinator for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni for teacher preparation reform.”

Look at all the proof of the right wing conspiracy cabal! Can’t you fools see? And the Regents are involved! AHHHHHHHHH!
Of course, they do sort of have responsibility for the quality of education that CU students (remember them, anyone?) receive.

Also leading in this “Governors Project” is Pataki in NY-no doubt connected with the Hamilton College incident that started all of this.

Hamilton. Wasn’t he on Karl Rove’s payroll?

* The general strategy in forcing and then manipulating this “investigation” of Ward’s scholarship shares key tactics with the neocon sinking of Emory historian Bellesiles in 2001 There are also likely to be parallels with the campaign against Linda Brodkey at UT in 1991 as well as other campaigns through which they have been testing and developing their methods and tactics.

I can not hope to improve upon the Rocky Mountain News on this:

Then there is this remarkable assertion: “The general strategy in forcing and then manipulating this ‘investigation’ of Ward’s scholarship shares key tactics with the neo-con sinking of Emory historian Bellesiles in 2001 . . .” In fact, Michael Bellesiles resigned after a panel of scholars from places such as Harvard and Princeton concluded his failure to cite sources for material in his book, Arming America, “does move into the realm of ‘falsification.'” Hardly a poster boy for the so-called new McCarthyism.

Back to Ms. Perez:

* Besides suggesting “treason” on the part of Ward and calling for his firing, Governor Owens has already requested Ethnic Studies’ budget, one of the most important neocon institutional targets. In a parallel de-funding move, see their successful campaign to pass H.R. 3077

I would humbly suggest that the budget of the Ethnic Studies Department is probably a lot more important to the members of that department than it is to damn near anyone else.

Further, by going after Ward’s tenure, they are essentially targeting the scholarly legitimacy of the entire field that, through external and internal review, granted Ward tenure. If Ward’s tenure (and his promotion to Full, and his successful post-tenure review) was a “mistake,” the next question is “who gave it to him?” Ultimately, by undermining the integrity of tenure in one national field, the neocon Right will pave the way to an attack on the very legitimacy of tenure as an institution. CU Regent Lucero did not mince words in his public statement at the emergency meeting where the 30-day investigation of Ward was announced:
“My displeasure with Mr. Churchill’s essay should be abundantly clear, however, the issues regarding faculty responsibilities are still my focus. While the language in the Laws and Policies is in place, setting the standards for faculty expectations and the grounds for discipline, I would argue that they are subjective and dependent on the faculty for interpretation as to whether a professor has crossed a line. I would suggest that the time has come for a revision to the Policies that allows for other forms of adjudication that are not reliant on the faculty for determining subjectively the fate of one of their own. (Feb 3, 2005)”

No, “they” are examining the “scholarly legitimacy” of Ward Churchill, and that sinister next question is exactly the question that must be asked if the concept of tenure is to retain any integrity. It is politicized tenured faculty themselves that are undermining tenure by the slipshod and politically motivated way in which they at times award it.
While I am not in complete agreement with Regent Lucero in terms of investigating faculty soley due to things they’ve said, I am in complete agreement with his concerns that an alternate and/or supplemental method of evaluating faculty needs to be considered because it is abundantly clear that faculty can not and will not police themselves.

* Neocon students at CU-B (College Republicans) are likely connected with CampusWatch and/or AVOT (Americans for Victory against Terrorism); they are already connected with a very hostile right-wing talk radio talk show host in Denver (that is then feeding to the national level) and they have been using tried-and-true CampusWatch/AVOT-type tactics to create the steady stream of racist, violent hatemail that not only Ward, but ES faculty and students are receiving.

Um, ok. Publish some of it and pursue punishment via the proper channels. And they do have the right of “free association”, last I checked.

* While we are confused and disoriented by the barrage of attacks, the state legislature is already moving to get tenure changes written into the books. The tactic is for Owens to make radical demands and push the envelope to the right, opening up space for a conservative Democrat to propose a more “moderate”-looking bill (Senate Bill 85, which includes tenure law changes) that should, if they’re smart, pass quickly and easily, possibly even before the next Regents meeting. Reported in the Colorado Daily on Friday Feb 11, the tenure changes appear minor but will be used as footholds for the next deeper round(s) of legislative actions.

There’s that darn “we” again. Again, by not acting in a professional manner they have brought this upon themselves. Instead of saying “we’ll investigate” they circle the wagons and scream “First Amendment!”

* The CU-Boulder administration seems well-intentioned but to have misjudged the stakes and their opposition. They may have believed they could keep control of the investigation by doing it in-house but the Right is already outflanking them by using this investigation to launch an ideological show-trial; it’s a war of public opinion in which the administration has already been outmaneuvered. By the end of 30 days, they could easily be backed into a corner, unable to resist the Right’s larger agenda. The Admin’s investigation can find whatever it wants (it could even decide to make no move against Ward), but by that point, it won’t matter because all the legislative momentum/power will be out of their hands. Ultimately, the neocon agenda doesn’t even have to succeed in getting Ward’s tenure revoked; the attack on Ward is only one key piece of a larger campaign with several objectives beyond the firing of Ward.

Well, CU’s efforts at damage control (let alone self-policing) are certainly well-deserving of their “deer-in-the-headlights” reputation. But the administration, in conjunction with the faculty, is the proper venue for such an investigation.
Unless I’m missing something, it would seem to me that the focus of an investigation is to find the facts, not to “find whatever it wants”, but I had a simple upbringing.

* Ward is a prime target. He is vulnerable and, at the same time, has extremely high strategic value. In terms of his vulnerability: he can be isolated from support forces who would traditionally make it hard to attack a tenured faculty. There are faculty who have problems with his being American Indian or who have something against Ethnic Studies, etc etc-these faculty will be reluctant or refuse to defend him (until it’s too late). As a revolutionary, he can be counted on to have a significant number of colleagues who strongly dislike him and will be reluctant or refuse to defend him (until it’s too late). On top of all this, in the post-911 climate, moderates who would normally disagree with his views but then go on to defend his free speech rights and academic freedom, will hesitate because they are afraid of being cast in with his “anti-americanism” (much like the McCarthy period). In terms of his high value as a target (David Horowitz has already written on this): he’s not only tenured, but he’s a full prof; he’s not only inside ethnic studies but he was chair; he’s not in just any university in CO, he’s at the institutional flagship of “liberalism” in the middle of a red state.

Boy he sure is a prime target. He’s an apparently under-qualified scholar, a plagiarizing “artist”, and a guy who seems to have mis-represented (which is a big word that means “lied about”) both his ethnicity and his military career. Aside from that he’s aces. Oh, and she claims there are racists on the faculty, too. That’ll spice up the next faculty meeting. But isn’t that the glorious struggle that true revolutionaries embrace?
Hell, I defend his right to free speech. But I also demand that he be held to the same standards in his job qualification as everyone else. And if he lied and committed fraud during the process, he should be booted.

We have to be as clear as possible about the big picture. This is much, much bigger than an individual attack on Ward. What we’re looking at is a carefully developed, pre-existing national strategy that has been searching for exactly the right breakthrough “test case.” It has found extremely favorable conditions in Ward’s situation and in the post-911 climate. As they’ve been doing already in other areas they want to dismantle the structural footholds (academic freedom/tenure, ethnic studies) that social movements gained for people of color and liberal and progressive intellectuals inside academe during the 60s & 70s. If they are successful in Colorado, it could set a precedent like Bakke. Raising the stakes even higher, Governor Owens has ambitions that reach as far as the White House. The next phases of his career hang on this crucial campaign that will give definitive proof of his leadership ability. If he pulls it off, it’s a glorious triple coup-de-grace: undermine the legal foundation of tenure/free speech, hurt/ruin Ethnic Studies…and at no less than the strongest “liberal” campus in the state. His personal investment in this campaign is very high and he is likely to throw his whole weight behind it.

We. Who is “we”? Oh, and Hillary’s back. Hurrah! It’s a “pre-existing” condition, this conspiracy (which I guess exempts it from coverage by the Right Wing Death Beast HMO) that has been waiting and watching, Sauron-like, for the proper moment to lash out. Muwhahahaha! Yes, it all comes together now…the mass arrests of scholars, minorities rounded up and shipped off to the wilds of northern Minnesota, the vicious attacks on people of different races and faiths (oops, sorry. That was France). And yes, those poor progressive liberals who’ve only got a foothold in academe (for the benefit of those of us outside the Ivory Tower, “foothold” is defined as “a 10-to-1 majority”); no wonder they feel so beseiged.
While Gov. Owen may indeed have aspirations for higher office, he may also simply be dreadfully embarrassed by the mess at CU. And I’m still trying to figure out that triple.

This is a fight to make history.
Emma Perez is the new chair of the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Colorado

Perhaps. But it’s more a fight about history, specifically Ward’s and the mess of a process that allowed him to get where he is.

12 Responses to “The Empire Strikes Back”

  1. Ken Summers says:

    Assuming you’re not a cheap bastard like me and only look a the free stuff online, a subscription to the RMN would be money well spent. After all, they employ Dave Kopel and Linda Seebach.
    Seebach used to be local here. I’ve never forgiven the RMN for stealing her away from us.

  2. The Bingster goes ape

    It’s not Lesbian Gorilla blogging, but it’s still worth reading….

  3. This I enjoyed

    I generally don’t like to drop links, but if you’ve got 10 minutes and have been keeping up with the Ward Churchill story, read this here from The Coalition of the Swilling.

  4. Emily says:

    I love how that counterpunch article closes with the sentence “this is a fight that will make history” or whatever. Fat chance, lady. It’ll slip into obscurity along with every other forgettable “academic” lunatic.

  5. Ken Summers says:

    Dude, you seem to have an unnatural attraction to this Churchill guy. Is there something you’re not telling us?

  6. Mr. Bingley says:

    hahaha…maybe you should grow your hair ken 😉

  7. Nightfly says:

    Ms. Perez should be thanking the VRWC. Having enforcable standards means that even the pompous blowhards have to have some credentials as scholars and teachers. My question is, why isn’t she in favor of such standards? Is it ideology? If so, I think her entire article is a long, boring exercise in projecting her faults onto others.
    If there really was a cabal against CU, it would go after the president of the university, who has failed to sack Gary Barnett for perfidy within the football program, to say nothing of the ongoing scandal regarding Katie Hnida.
    The entire University is a little… troubled.

  8. Dave J says:

    I think perhaps the most amusing part of this whole demented paranoid diatribe is her suggestion that uber-wishy-washy George Pataki is part of the VRWC. Academia is practically the only place where you could find someone who could describe him, with a straight face, as some kind of extreme rightwing radical.

  9. Mr. Bingley says:

    Oh c’mon Dave! Everyone knows Pataki’s been shacking up with Christine “Eva Braun” Whitman for years now…

  10. Mr. Bingley says:

    Not only is she projecting, Nightfly, she’s attacking the very idea of accountability for her and her fellow academics. The whole “How dare you question us!” mentality is quite entertaining. You will not find greater examples of hierarchy, petulance, discrimination and assumed privilege than on a university faculty.

  11. Nightfly says:

    UPDATE!! – behold the power of the VRWC!

  12. Mr. Bingley says:

    I’m sure it will come out in due time that the VRWC actually paid for hookers to infiltrate the CU Atha-letics Dept to lead those poor young fools astray and thus cause the downfall of this fine institution and wonderful lady.
    I wonder if Rove went to Colorado State???

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