Ex-prof can’t have his CU job back

Ward Churchill testifies during his reinstatement hearing at the Denver City and County Building in Denver, Wednesday, July 1, 2009.

Fired University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill can’t get his job back and won’t get $1 million, either, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Denver District Judge Larry Naves said in a 42-page decision that reinstating Churchill at the Boulder campus would suggest to “the broader academic community that the department of ethnic studies tolerates research misconduct.”

A jury earlier this year awarded Churchill $1 after deciding that his firing was retaliation for an essay in which he compared the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., to a Nazi, Adolf Eichmann.

Though the ruling was a setback for Churchill, his feud with the university is likely not over, CU Regent Tillie Bishop of Grand Junction said, praising the judge’s ruling.

Bishop said he expected that Churchill would appeal and that the university would continue to defend the firing of Churchill on grounds of plagiarism.

“I think the judge probably made the right decision, the appropriate decision, and certainly gained the support of the taxpayers, who probably had as much investment and concern about this as anyone,” Bishop said.

Bishop, a former Mesa County commissioner and longtime state senator from Mesa County, was elected a regent in 2006.

Churchill’s firing had “nothing whatsoever to do with freedom of speech,” as Churchill alleged in his lawsuit, Bishop said.

The fight, however, had “portrayed a bad image” of CU, Bishop said.

Churchill was seeking reinstatement or $1 million in cash as a settlement.

The judge denied Churchill’s request for money he would have been paid had he not been fired and noted that Churchill had made no effort to get a similar job at another institution of higher education.

Churchill opted instead to give lectures, but turned down some job offers, Naves said in his decision.

Churchill’s attorney, David Lane, said he will take his client’s case to the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Naves’ ruling means the regents could fire Churchill if they don’t like what he says, or even because of his race or religion, Lane said.

“This judge says that’s OK,” Lane said. “If your First Amendment rights are violated by the state of Colorado, don’t look for justice in Denver District Court.”


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