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This article describes how different constituencies in a major research university tried to initiate change despite disagreements over common goals, norms and principles. The context was a culture war. The university administration wanted to impose a corporatising and privatising philosophy which it felt was crucial to preserving the university's academic integrity and its financial survival in a time of budgetary crisis. Faculty viewed these actions as serious threats to shared governance, faculty control over the curriculum, instruction and research, academic freedom and the faculty's constitutional rights. These forces played out in the firing and grievance cases of Ward Churchill and Adrienne Anderson, professors whose research and publications angered members of the political and academic establishment and galvanised protests pro and con from the media, conservative politicians and public intellectuals.