Even accepting the modern notion that the First Amendment applies to state governments, the Supreme Court has distinguished between the government as sovereign and the government as employer. The government is extremely limited in its ability to regulate the speech of private citizens, but not so limited in regulating the speech of its own employees.
So the First Amendment and "free speech" are really red herrings when it comes to whether Ward Churchill can be fired. Even state universities will not run afoul of the Constitution for firing a professor who is incapable of doing his job because he is a lunatic, an incompetent or an idiot ? and those determinations would obviously turn on the professor's "speech."
If a math professor's "speech" consisted of insisting that 2 plus 2 equals 5, or an astrophysicist's "speech" was to claim that the moon is made of Swiss cheese, or a history professor's "speech" consisted of rants about the racial inferiority of the n-----s, each one of them could be fired by a state university without running afoul of the Constitution.
Just because we don't have bright lines for determining what speech can constitute a firing offense, doesn't mean there are no lines at all. If Churchill hasn't crossed them, we are admitting that almost nothing will debase and disgrace the office of professor (except, you know, suggesting that there might be innate differences in the mathematical abilities of men and women).
In addition to calling Americans murdered on 9-11 "little Eichmanns," Churchill has said:
Not only are the diseased-blanket stories cited by Churchill denied by his alleged sources, but the very idea is contradicted by the facts of scientific discovery. The settlers didn't understand the mechanism of how disease was transmitted. Until Louis Pasteur's experiments in the second half of the 19th century, the idea that disease could be caused by living organisms was as scientifically accepted as crystal reading is today. Even after Pasteur, many scientists continued to believe disease was spontaneously generated from within. Churchill is imbuing the settlers with knowledge that in most cases wouldn't be accepted for another hundred years.
I forgot Auschwitz had a casino.
If Ward Churchill can be a college professor, what's David Duke waiting for?
The whole idea behind free speech is that in a marketplace of ideas, the truth will prevail. But liberals believe there is no such thing as truth and no idea can ever be false (unless it makes feminists cry, such as the idea that there are innate differences between men and women). Liberals are so enamored with the process of free speech that they have forgotten about the goal.
Faced with a professor who is a screaming lunatic, they retreat to, "Yes, but academic freedom, tenure, free speech, blah, blah," and their little liberal minds go into autopilot with all the slogans.
Why is it, again, that we are so committed to never, ever firing professors for their speech? Because we can't trust state officials to draw any lines at all here? Because ... because ... because they might start with crackpots like Ward Churchill ? but soon liberals would be endangered? Liberals don't think there is any conceivable line between them and Churchill? Ipse dixit.