Phi Beta Cons

Re: Churchillian

Thanks to David and John for their very kind posts on Anne’s op-ed. Some of the comments over there on Inside Higher Ed are, well, real head-scratchers. (One guy demands to know how we came up with our sample. It’s explained very clearly in the report.) Erin O’Connor should have a response up on ACTA’s blog this weekend, and I’m sure it’ll be worth a look.
While so many people have apparently been busy not reading ACTA’s report and then deciding to publicly comment on it anyway, I’ve been parsing the University of Colorado’s report on Churchill’s academic misconduct. Let me tell you, it is a real doozy. Check out some of the words the authors use to describe some of the assertions made in Churchill’s work:

    • “literally incorrect” (p.16)
    • “both literally false and unsupportable” (p.19)
    • “gross historical inaccuracies” (p.22)
    • having “has virtually all of the details of that history wrong” (p.22)
    • “[g]etting the general point correct but virtually all of the historical details wrong” (p.22)
    • “certainly not the careful professional work one would expect of an ethnic studies scholar writing on important historical events in Indian studies” (p.22)
    • designed to “create the appearance of independent support for his claims, while simultaneously discouraging or, at least, making far more difficult, any effort by other researchers to check his claims by failing to pinpoint the precise location of his claimed support in an otherwise lengthy work” p.23
    • part of a “pattern of other misconduct” (p.23)
    • a “deliberate research stratagem to create the appearance of independent verifiable support for claims that could not be supported” p.23
    • a “consistent research stratagem to cloak extreme, unsupportable, propaganda-like claims of fact that support Professor Churchill’s legal and political claims with the aura of authentic scholarly research” (p.23)
    • “his seeming quotation…is not a quotation at all” (p.29)
    • he “knowingly evaded that truth” (p.31)
    • “patently incorrect statements” (p.31)
    • “seriously and deliberately misrepresented” (p.31)
    • “bewildering” (p.36)
    • he “does not connect the dots” (p.36)
    • he “fabricated his account” (p.38)
    • “no evidence—not even circumstantial evidence—supports his claim” (p.38)
    • using something that is “not even a scholarly source” (p.64)
    • “no evidence to support Professor Churchill’s claim” (p.65)
    • “another example of Professor Churchill’s practice of referring to essays that he claims to have written himself as if they were independent authorities” (p.66)
    • he “has misrepresented several of the published works that he cites” (p. 68)
    • “fabricated” (p.69)
    • “statements…become more extreme over time, moving further from the sources he cites, without supplying any additional references” (p.73)
    • “misconduct was not accidental, but deliberate” (p.87)
    • “recurrent refusal to take responsibility for errors” (p.95)
    • “pattern of failure to understand the difference between scholarship and polemic” (p.95)
    • “unacceptable scholarly techniques” (p.97)
    • “production of shoddy and irresponsible work” (p.97)


The Committee also writes, “Were Professor Churchill a scientist, rather than a researcher engaged in social science research in ethnic studies, the equivalent would be (1) the misstatement of some underlying data…and (2) the total fabrication of other data to support his hypothesis” (p.24). Yet only one member dared to recommend his firing for such grave offenses.

So let’s get the academic establishment’s logic straight here: if you make stuff up (including rash accusations of wrongdoing on the part of the U.S. Army), write articles in others’ names and then quote them as support for your claims, deliberately avoid the facts of the situation, and get caught, which is what Churchill did, you’re a victim and you deserve to keep your job. Even though the whole point of your occupation is the search for, um, truth.
But if you point out obvious problems in the academy and propose reasonable solutions entirely consistent with academic freedom, which is what ACTA’s report does, you get slammed as an enemy of all that is right and good.
Anybody else see a problem here?

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