Decision on Ward Churchill reinstatement next week

By John Aguilar ( Contact)

Originally published 10:18 a.m., July 1, 2009
Updated 04:37 p.m., July 1, 2009

Camera reporter John Aguilar is covering Ward Churchill's reinstatement hearing and will be filing live updates throughout the day from the courtroom in Denver District Court.

The former University of Colorado professor is asking Chief Denver District Court Judge Larry Naves to give him his job back. Churchill was fired nearly two years ago by the CU regents after the school claimed he had committed widespread and systematic academic fraud.

Update: 4:37 p.m.

Chief Denver District Judge Larry Naves broke court for the day and asked the lawyers to submit final papers in the case on Thursday.

He said he would likely have a final ruling on whether Ward Churchill gets his job back by early next week.

Before court ended, Churchill attorney David Lane cross-examined CU Chancellor Phil DiStefano on the stand.

He asked the chancellor what the appropriate remedy is -- given a jury's finding earlier this year that CU violated Churchill's constitutional rights -- short of giving his client his job back.

"If he didn't commit research misconduct, I would support him coming back to the university," DiStefano said.

But Lane challenged the chancellor asking him if the jury verdict didn't essentially conclude that the school couldn't prove that CU let the professor go for any other reason.

"Your position flies right in the face of what the jury found, doesn't it?" Lane asked.

He asked DiStefano if CU had held any meetings to discuss how the school could figure how to stop violating people's constitutional rights.

The chancellor said no.

On re-direct, CU attorney Patrick O'Rourke asked DiStefano if the jury verdict form mentioned anything about Churchill plagiarizing, fabricating or falsifying his scholarship.

DiStefano said no.

The chancellor said he inferred from the jury's award of a single dollar to Churchill that it felt he had not suffered any damages worthy of reinstatement.

The final witness of the day was Richard Jessor, the longest serving faculty member at CU. He is a professor of behavioral science.

He said he opposes Churchill getting his job back.

"The entire enterprise of scholarship relies competely on trust and insofar as that is violated, it betrays the mission of inquiry and scholarship," Jessor said. "I feel that it is the responsibility of a faculty member who has made a commitment to the university to preserve the highest standards of scholarship and integrity and I feel that reinstatement would be a violation of those things."

Jessor testified that reinstating Churchill would essentially "negate" the process the university put into place to evaluate its faculty.

On cross-examination, Jessor said he disagreed with the Privilege & Tenure Committee's majority decision to not recommend Churchill's firing though he agreed with its conclusion the professor had committed academic fraud


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