Friday, April 3, 2009

Just a Buck

I haven’t been following this story closely, so I’ll pass it along without much comment.

Ward Churchill won his case against the University of Colorado today as a Denver jury unanimously decided he was fired in retaliation for his controversial essay about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The jury gave Churchill $1 for past losses, finding he was fired over protected free speech.

Denver Chief District Judge Larry Naves will decide in a separate hearing whether the former Boulder professor can return to his job or receive pay for years he could have worked at CU.

Churchill hugged his legal team after the verdict was read.

CU attorney Patrick O’Rourke shook hands with Churchill and his attorneys before leaving the courtroom without making a statement.

Churchill briefly spoke outside the courtroom and said, “it took four years. It took a while. And it was quick, it was justice.”

CU “has been exposed for what it is,” Churchill said.

“It was found by a jury that I was wrongly fired,” he said. “They not only violated my rights, but my student’s rights and the community’s rights.”

Churchill said he was satisfied with a $1 judgment and said his case was not about money.

“Reinstatement, of course,” he said. “I did not ask for money. I asked for justice.”

I’m not in favor of firing anyone over their fundamental right to free speech, even if it’s someone like Prof. Churchill, whom I remember vaguely from my years — 1982-1988 — at CU. He was then, as now, a gadfly, and most of the people I knew that took his classes viewed him as such. Every campus has one, regardless of political leanings, and I suspect that the administration at the university took the action they did more out of exasperation than anything else. That doesn’t make it right.

Prof. Churchill belies his motives a little when he claims that the university “not only violated my rights, but my student’s rights and the community’s rights.” When someone tells you the issue isn’t just about them, you can rest assured that it is all about them and them alone. Martyrs blow it when they proclaim themselves to be martyrs, and I suspect there’s more than just a little ego and self-aggrandizement going on here than the humble professor is willing to let on. Then again, my alma mater blew it when they rose to the bait that Prof. Churchill dangled in front of them, and they probably could have avoided all of this if they had just spent the $1 on buying a nice hot cup of coffee at the Alferd Packer Grill for the professor and let him continue on his way.