Friday, June 03, 2005
On a rainy Saturday in October 1988, Robert T. Coulter, a soft-spoken lawyer and member of the Potawatomi Nation, gave a talk at a conference hosted by Evergreen State College on the banks of Puget Sound in Washington state.I have had articles reprinted, and in each case I am asked to sign a release -- I'd like to say I got a check too, but that's happened only once in twenty years.
After his speech on the status of American Indian nations, he handed out copies of what he had presented.
One of the people attending the conference, Coulter recalled, was Ward Churchill.
Three years later, Churchill included Coulter's presentation in a book of essays he was editing. But Coulter said Churchill never asked for his approval.
In fact, Coulter said he wasn't even aware that Churchill had published his work until a reporter called to ask him about it recently.
At least three times, Ward Churchill has taken other people's work and published it without their permission, the Rocky Mountain News has found. In doing so, he has sometimes changed their words and, in one case, even added erroneous information.
It's nice to have your work reprinted generally, so I understand one of the other authors whose work Churchill allegedly lifted saying it was OK with her. If they didn't change a word, I might send a letter pointing out they should have asked permission first but I probably wouldn't do anything more. But altering my words is pretty bad, and inserting information -- even if it is correct -- would be a serious violation.
Even worse, the RMN also reports that Churchill is taking some work and putting his own name on it. In the early 1970s there was a conspiracy theory that the U.S. Corps of Engineers was going to flood northern Canada. A group called Dam the Dams promulgated the story.
Dam the Dams published The Water Plot in 1972. In 1989, Churchill published a version of The Water Plot with the same structure, language and information found in the original. He credited that piece to Dam the Dams and his own research organization, Institute for Natural Progress.And best of all, Dam the Dams had repudiated its own work long before Churchill started republishing it. Prof. Churchill still argues that it could happen. There are elements of sloppy editing (such as not changing time frames between publication in 1972, 1989 and 1992. As noted in the article -- which deserves a full reading -- while each item on its own might seem insufficient to warrant firing Churchill, it is the accummulation of repeated instances that leads to the conclusion that Churchill is perpetrating systematic academic fraud.
In 1991, Churchill took sole credit for another version of The Water Plot that was largely identical to the 1989 version. In 2002, he published a third version of the essay under his own name.
Churchill declined to comment on why he took credit for work done by members of Dam the Dams.
The discovery of the striking similarity between Churchill's essays and the Dam the Dams pamphlet comes as the University of Colorado's standing committee on research misconduct investigates a plagiarism charge against the tenured ethnic studies professor, as well as other allegations of research misconduct.
The University of Colorado committee investigating the charges is receiving all of this evidence. I can't find a reference right now, but my memory is that they should report 90 days from their formation, which would be later this month.
UPDATE: Reader Doug Sundseth notes that according to this article, the first report is due, but that a final determination on Churchill will take much longer.
UPDATE 2: I receive word there is a whole blog devoted to covering Churchill. Lo and behold, the Scholars saw it, and it was good.