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Furor Sparks Review of Tenure System

March 25, 2005|From Associated Press

DENVER — The University of Colorado ordered a review of its tenure system Thursday after one of its professors created a furor by likening World Trade Center victims to Nazi bureaucrats.

The university's governing Board of Regents voted to form a panel to examine the way the school awards tenure and the way professors are evaluated after they get it.

University President Elizabeth Hoffman said some changes were likely at the conclusion of the review.

Tenure, which protects faculty members from being fired except for blatant misconduct, was thrust into the spotlight by the controversy surrounding an essay by professor Ward L. Churchill in which he called the Sept. 11 victims "little Eichmanns" -- a reference to Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi bureaucrat who helped carry out the Holocaust.

Churchill, a tenured professor of ethnic studies, has said he was arguing that some World Trade Center victims were participating in an unfair American economic system that provoked the terrorist attacks.

Since the publicity about his essay, Churchill and the university have faced questions about the thoroughness of the review he underwent before he was granted tenure.

Gov. Bill Owens called on the university to fire Churchill, and suggested the Legislature consider imposing statewide tenure standards.

State House Minority Leader Joe Stengel faulted the tenure process for allowing Churchill to rise through the ranks. He cited plagiarism allegations, questions about Churchill's ethnicity, and his "academic background in general."

The lawmaker said he agreed with the regents that tenure must be evaluated, but said that for now, the Legislature should just observe.

Acting Chancellor Phil DiStefano said Thursday that Churchill's essay was protected by the 1st Amendment, but that further review was warranted into claims that the professor committed plagiarism and lied about being American Indian.

Churchill has denied misconduct and said he would sue if the university fired him. He had no comment on the tenure review.

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