Churchill verdict

by Henry Farrell on April 3, 2009

“Inside Higher Ed”:

More than four years after his comments on 9/11 set off a furor, and four weeks into a trial, a Colorado jury on Thursday afternoon found that the University of Colorado did not fire Ward Churchill for legitimate reasons, but for his political views. A judge will later determine whether Churchill can return to his tenured job as an ethnic studies professor at the university’s Boulder campus. The jury was responsible for awarding damages, and gave Churchill only $1.
To find in Churchill’s favor, the jury had to determine that his political views were a substantial or motivating factor in his dismissal, and that he would not have been fired but for the controversy over his opinions.

I think that this is a reasonable verdict (although it seems to be the product of a “jury split”: between a majority who wanted to give him a significant sum and a holdout who wanted to give him nothing). It says that the university was wrong to fire him for his political views (which I strongly suspect it did – what evidence I am aware of suggests that tenured plagiarists “usually get an easier deal”: than you might expect), but also suggests that his academic career wasn’t worth all that much in the first place. I imagine he’ll get his job back if he really wants it, which is about what both he and the president who fired him both deserve.