Editor’s note: The Associated Press reported on April 9 that the University of Colorado planned to challenge Ward Churchill’s reinstatement efforts. University spokesman Ken McConnellogue told the Daily Camera that it would be a "bad idea" to return Churchill to campus.
DENVER — A jury ruled yesterday that the University of Colorado wrongly fired
the professor who compared some Sept. 11 victims to Nazis, giving him only $1 in
damages but a chance to get his job back.
Ward Churchill was fired on charges of research misconduct, but he maintained
he was dismissed in retaliation for his comments about Sept. 11 victims.
Jurors agreed, saying Churchill never would have been fired if he hadn't
written an essay in which he called the World Trade Center victims "little
Eichmanns," a reference to Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi leader who orchestrated the
A judge is to decide whether Churchill gets back his job as a tenured
professor of ethnic studies, after his attorneys file a motion for
"What's next for me? Reinstatement, of course," Churchill said. "That's what
I asked for. I didn't ask for money."
His lead attorney, David Lane, said the reinstatement motion would be filed
within 30 days and a hearing would likely be scheduled in June.
When the verdict was read, Churchill hugged his wife, Natsu Saito, and
Outside the courtroom, the normally outspoken Churchill seemed to struggle
for words as he faced television cameras.
"I'm just formulating a couple of thoughts," he said. "What was asked for and
what was delivered was justice."
Lane called the verdict a significant victory for free speech.
"There are few defining moments that give the First Amendment this kind of
light," he said.
University spokesman Ken McConnellogue said the university would review its
options before deciding whether to appeal.
"(The verdict) doesn't change the fact that more than 20 of his faculty peers
found that he engaged in plagiarism and other academic misconduct,"
He said the jury's $1 damage award sends a message about the merits of
Churchill's civil claims.
Lane said the university also would be liable for hundreds of thousands of
dollars in Churchill's legal bills.
Churchill's essay touched off a national firestorm, and then-Gov. Bill Owens
and other officials publicly called on the university to fire him.
Betsy Hoffman, who was president of the university at the time, testified
that Owens pressured her to fire Churchill and said he would "unleash my plan"
when she told him she couldn't.
In his testimony, Owens denied threatening the university.
University officials concluded Churchill couldn't be fired because of his
First Amendment rights, but they launched an investigation of his academic
That investigation, which didn't include the Sept. 11 essay, concluded he had
plagiarized, fabricated evidence and committed other misconduct. He was fired on
those allegations in 2007.
The university has maintained that the firing was justified.
Churchill's essay was written in late 2001 but attracted little attention
until 2005, when critics publicized it after he was invited to speak at Hamilton
College in upstate New York.
Churchill testified last week that he didn't mean his comments to be hurtful
to Sept. 11 victims. He said he was arguing that "if you make it a practice of
killing other people's babies for personal gain ... eventually they're going to
give you a taste of the same thing."
After the verdict, he criticized the news media for shaping the "public
consciousness in a false fashion."
Jay Brown, a professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law who
blogged about the case, predicted before the verdict was delivered that jurors
would reach a decision favoring Churchill, partly because they were young and
the anger at and interest in Churchill had diminished.
"In 2005, everybody had an opinion about Ward Churchill," Brown said. "And I
think this jury was young enough that they were unaffected by what happened in