Ward Churchill, the Colorado professor whose Sept. 11 essay caused national controversy, is one of a number of professors who have signed a petition supporting a former USF professor whose contract USF declined to renew.
The University of Colorado professor, who made headlines around the world when excerpts of an essay he wrote describing victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as “little Eichmanns” were widely publicized, added his support to an electronic petition expressing concern at USF’s decision not to renew the contract of former English Department professor James Inman.
The petition states that USF ignored American Association of University Professors guidelines by not giving Inman any reason for his non-renewal, by not including other faculty in discussions about his renewal and by not allowing him to submit relevant information to support his renewal. As of Sunday, the petition, which was started in late May, had 137 signatures, many from professors of distinguished universities.
Inman, who is now employed at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, was informed of USF’s decision in a letter from Associate Provost Philip Smith on Dec. 2, 2003. The letter did not give any reasons for the non-reappointment. In October 2003, the Diversity and Equal Opportunity Office investigated a complaint of sexual harassment against Inman but concluded that further investigation was not required. The DOE investigator did, however, recommend that the College of Arts and Sciences review the behavior alleged in the report to determine if it was inappropriate.
According to a 2004 story in the St. Petersburg Times, the sexual harassment complaint was filed by Julia Makosky, a graduate student that Inman dated in 2002. According to the report, Makosky was one of Inman’s students, a fact that Inman disputes.
The petition, the second that has been started for Inman since his non-reappointment, was initiated by Ashley Villegas, a friend of Inman’s.
“I’ve known James a long time, and I’ve personally reviewed all the evidence,” Villegas wrote in an e-mail. “I’m convinced that USF made a terrible decision that cannot be allowed to stand.”
AAUP Associate General Secretary Jordan E. Kurland said the AAUP were aware of Inman’s case and the latest petition, but that it was not a priority for the group.
“We have situations like this twice a week where recommended AAUP procedure is not followed,” Kurland said. “Nothing has emerged in this case of sufficient magnitude to put this on the front burner of the AAUP.”
Michelle Carlyon, director for USF media relations, said USF was aware of the petition but she could not comment on the reasons for Inman’s non-reappointment.
Inman said he is not seeking reinstatement at USF, but wants to clear his name and reputation.
“The petition doesn’t ask for me to be reinstated but asks for me to be allowed to present my side,” Inman said. “I want to clear my name anyway. There’s damage done.”
Churchill, who is being investigated by a UC committee for accusations that he plagiarized work and misrepresented himself as a Native American, is not the only academic embroiled in controversy to sign the petition. Also present on the list is anthropology professor David Graeber, who in May was told by Yale University that his contract would not be renewed. Graeber and his supporters have claimed that it was his politics — Graeber is an anarchist — and his backing of graduate student unionization that prompted Yale’s decision not to renew his contract.
Former USF graduate student Beth Boes-Stevenson, who signed the petition, said the decision to let Inman go had harmed the English Department.
“I had him for two classes, and I never saw any sort of inappropriate behavior, especially not toward female students,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Now the tech-writing program has no one, in my opinion, worthwhile.”