The jury in the Ward Churchill trial decided in favor of the defendant yesterday. The members agreed after a day and a half of deliberation with the so-called 9/11 professor’s claims that he was wrongfully dismissed from the University of Colorado — that he was fired, basically, to appease national outcry over his controversial writings on the 9/11 attacks.
In awarding him a mere $1, the jury chose not to compensate him in cash but paid him instead the kind of compliment he will likely appreciate: The minimal cash award suggests the jury concluded that Churchill, although unlikeable or unsympathetic, was right.
Churchill has argued from the beginning of the controversy that the point of his writing, and to a large degree his work as a professor, has been to challenge popular views that are nevertheless wrong or distracting. He has said that, although his views on 9/11 were unpopular and hastily delivered, they were not incorrect and the fact that they shook the orthodoxy of the time and made people think demonstrated their power.
In other words, he stood by his reviled phrase — referring to the victims of the terrorist attacks as “little Eichmanns” for the technocratic abuses they unleashed through U.S. financial practices — as correct even if unlikeable or unsympathetic and that it was therefore exactly the kind of speech the Constitution was written to protect.
District Court Chief Judge Larry J. Naves has given both sides 30 days to present motions before he rules on whether Churchill will get his job back or will receive back pay.
University of Colorado at Boulder Interim Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano released this statement on the university’s Web site, saying: “While I am disappointed by the jury’s decision, I am still confident that the process we used to review allegations of research misconduct was appropriately applied in this case. The university attorneys will evaluate the next steps in the legal process. It is too early to comment on how the judge’s final decision might impact the campus, as that decision has not yet been rendered.”