University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, who has aroused controversy over a statement he made in a recent essay, was “the top candidate” for professor and chair of CSUN’s American Indian Studies Program in 1991, according to three CSUN sources involved in the hiring process.
“During the fall of 1991, I was contacted by Prof. Warren Furumoto about the possibility of assuming the position heading up the Native American Studies Program at Northridge,” Churchill said in an e-mail interview.
In his essay, “Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens,” Churchill called certain victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks “technocrats of empire,” and “little Eichmanns,” a reference to Nazi Adolf Eichmann, who was accused of murdering millions of Jews during the Holocaust.
In response to his comments, Churchill has received national attention, and was asked to resign as chair of the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Colorado. Churchill resigned as chair, but is still working as a professor in the department.
Several people have asked that he be fired.
“I was brought out twice (to CSUN) from New York State to meet people (e.g., Rudy Acu?a), and get the lay of the land, spending about a week in total,” Churchill said in the email interview.
The American Indian Studies Program at CSUN is in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Ralph Vicero, former dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the time Churchill was considered for the job, could not be reached for comment.
“Discussions had progressed to the point that the university rented me and my then wife a car for purposes of scouting out a locale in which we might wish to live,” Churchill said in the e-mail interview. “Job-wise, they were talking about my being offered a full professorship with tenure and a salary in the mid $90 (thousands). My wife was to be offered an associate professorship, also tenured. I broke off discussions when I accepted the offer at Colorado.”
After a search was done, there was no record found of Churchill getting a formal, official job offer on paper, said John Chandler, CSUN spokesperson.
Chandler said records of all applicants who applied for that job but were not finalists, may have been lost in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. He said Churchill’s application could have been lost then.
But CSUN is not denying he received a job offer either, Chandler said.
Chicano/a studies professors Rudy Acu?a and Jorge Garcia, as well as Warren Furumoto, CSUN Director of the Center for Academic Preparedness, who were part of the ad hoc candidate search committee for the position Churchill applied for, each said he was the top candidate.
“My recollection is that he did receive an offer,” Acu?a said in an e-mail interview. “I sat in on the interviews, as did Warren Furumoto and Jorge Garcia. His credentials were the best among other candidates.”
Garcia said he is not sure if a formal, official offer was made to Churchill, but is positive he was the top candidate, contradictory to information other media outlets have reported.
“I’ve seen those statements about (how) there was no consideration, there was no offer made, that he wasn’t acceptable in terms of his scholarship, and to me, that’s all hogwash,” Garcia said. “He was head and shoulders above all … of whom had Ph.D.s. That’s the irony. In a technical, strict sense … we’ll probably find that an actual letter offering him the job may not have gone to him, because before you make a paper offer, you come to agreements, (and) you negotiate. There’s no sense in sending someone a paper offer that (they might) reject.”
Furumoto, chair of the ad hoc committee in charge of finding a chair for the American Studies Program in 1991, said “the only person that can give a job offer is the president of the university, and that did not happen.”
“(Churchill) withdrew,” Furumoto said. “So once he withdrew, what’s the purpose of keeping the records?”
Critics of Churchill in the academic world have said he is not a scholar. Although he did not have a Ph.D., Churchill was still considered the top candidate for the position, Garcia said.
“(Churchill) had a vision of what a program should look like,” Garcia said. “He had a plan. He had the commitment. He had the energy. He had the understanding of it. One of the most nefarious parts I (hear) people saying (about) Ward Churchill (is that) the books he writes are not academic. (But) these are serious academic works, with bibliographies, with footnotes.”
George Wayne, former vice president of Student Academic Services at CSU, Sacramento, said he received a phone call from an official at CSUN inquiring about Churchill in 1991. Wayne said he was later told that Churchill was not a serious contender for the position at CSUN, although he could not remember by whom.