Controversial Professor Wrongly Fired, Jury Says


Boulder, CO—A professor at the University of Colorado who published a controversial essay comparing 9/11 terrorism victims to Holocaust leader Adolf Eichmann has been awarded damages in his wrongful termination suit – but the damages only amount to $1.

Churchill, 61, was fired from his position as professor of ethnic studies in 2007, following a scandal surrounding his essay. While the university defends the decision by saying that Churchill was guilty of academic misconduct, including plagiarism, Churchill claimed that his termination was in retaliation for his controversial remarks.

The essay, which was written by Churchill on September 12, 2001, the day after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, is entitled “Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens.” In it, he argued that U.S. foreign policy had caused the attacks, in part because of the country’s violence, standards of warfare, and violations of international law. The employees at the World Trade Center, he argued, were not innocent victims but instead “formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America’s global financial empire.” He also called them “the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers,” in an allusion to scholar Hannah Arendt’s description of Eichmann as an average person who perpetuated the evils of a larger system.

The essay did not receive substantial attention after its initial appearance, but Churchill later expanded it into a book of the same name. The controversy erupted after he was asked to speak at a college in upstate New York, in 2005. Hamilton College later canceled the appearance due to threats of violence against Churchill.

Colleagues of the professor, even those who have publicly disagreed with his opinions, have cited his dismissal from the University of Colorado as unfair. At issue, they say, is the freedom of political dissent and academic discourse, both of which should fall under the Constitutional right to free speech.

A jury panel, comprised of four women and two men, agreed with Churchill after deliberating for a day and a half, but only awarded him a minimal amount in damages.

The university’s board of regents has not yet decided whether it will appeal the panel’s decision.

Chief District Judge Larry Naves, who presided over the case, has not yet ruled as to whether the university must pay Churchill’s legal fees, nor whether Churchill must give back his tenured professorship, which comes with a $96,392 annual salary.


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