I just knew this was going to be interesting, given Deming’s own controversial past. (I’ve written about Deming a couple of times already; his Wikipedia page contains a mostly-straightforward assessment of the events of his tenure.)
Based on what I knew about Deming, I figured he would have been incensed by Churchill’s rants, but that he would defend Churchill as a matter of academic freedom. Which he did:
Having been in the academic system for 17 years, I know how the system works. I know how dishonest these people can be. They won’t say that they’re firing you for the real reason. They’ll trump up charges, they’ll invent some specious reason. They’ll stack the committee members with people that will do what they want. Waiting to go after Ward Churchill until he wrote that controversial essay, and then they suddenly become concerned over the quality of his scholarship?
I guess the guy has written a massive amount of stuff which they put under a microscope and then they express all of this outrage. There very well may be problems, I don’t know. I certainly know that the timing tells you everything about the true motivation. Conservatives like myself are very much in the minority in the academy and if we want to have our free speech rights respected then we need to be willing to extend free speech rights to those on the left as well.
Not that anyone at OU is cutting Deming any slack these days.
If you missed this story, the University of Colorado sacked Churchill in the summer of 2007, charging research misconduct. Churchill sued CU; on the first of this month, a jury found that Churchill had been wrongly terminated, but awarded him only token damages. Summation here; Mark Hemingway, who had sought Deming’s perspective for NRO, notes:
Odd as it may seem, the verdict might strike just the right balance. There was a credible case to be made that after he became a political hot potato the university rushed to fire Churchill and trounced on his academic freedom procedurally. However, in recognition of Churchill being generally obnoxious and possibly dishonest, the jury wasn’t about to reward him unduly.
After the verdict, counsel for Churchill called for Colorado to reinstate him; the court has taken this request under consideration.