Yesterday, a professor in Boulder’s philosophy department forwarded this post by Brain Leiter minimizing and excusing Ward Churchill’s dishonesty to the department’s “disscuss” list. I was floored by Leiter’s remarks. Here’s what I wrote in reply:
Brian Leiter approvingly quoted someone who wrote: “Churchill is guilty of occasionally shoddy scholarship and the dubious practice of ghostwriting, and perhaps even more.”
The “dubious practice of ghostwriting”?!? That has got to be joke. (Yeah, I know it’s not.)
By his own admission, Churchill published his papers under the names of others. As if that’s not bad enough, he then cited those papers as independent sources to corroborate false legal and historical claims. That’s not some kind of mistake or oversight. It’s not merely dubious: it’s twice-baked academic fraud. Contra Leiter, it’s very serious.
A graduate student would surely be kicked out of the program for ghostwriting papers for other students. Fabricating sources would be a serious offense. So why is that behavior excusable in a professor?
If academic freedom is understood as granting professors freedom to engage in the same kinds of dishonesty for which students are flunked and/or expelled, then academic freedom won’t be around much longer.
As for the rest of the blog post, it’s not consistent with what I’ve read in the various CU reports on Churchill. See:
Augh. I don’t understand how academics can punish plagiarism and cheating in their students while excusing Ward Churchill. Yet they do.