Monday, September 12, 2005

We all make mistakes 

In the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscribers only), while claiming he is the victim of a witch hunt, Ward Churchill impugns an entire profession and shows why he is unqualified to be a professor.

"This is not a question of the quality of my scholarship," he said in a telephone interview on Sunday. "It's a fishing expedition."

"There would never have been an issue raised if it weren't for the [little Eichmanns] speech," he said. "Now they're going to sit there will all due sanctimony and cluck-cluck about whether I cited a source at note 40 rather than note 14."

Mr. Churchill said he had published more than 4,000 pages of scholarship and argued that examining the work of any scholar with a similarly extensive publication record would produce "a half-dozen paragraphs, half-dozen footnotes that you can build some kind of a case on, if that's your object."

This is comtemptible. Of course we make mistakes in scholarship, but the statement belies a callous disregard for accuracy in Churchill's scholarship. The board of inquiry looking into these cases is charged with determining whether these are "serious errors" or "misconduct". Errors are of course to be corrected, and an academic's reputation is harmed in the process, but nobody is fired from a tenurable post for errors. Churchill's attempts to conflate error and misconduct smears the entire profession, and indicates that he doesn't particularly care if his footnotes are accurate. Such people are not fit to be academics.