Middle East studies in the News
Lecturer Wants More Jobs: UW's Barrett Says His 9/11 Views Haven't Scotched His Prospects
by Megan Twohey
Kevin Barrett, a part-time lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who teaches the theory that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were an inside job, intends to apply for more jobs at the university after his fall course on Islam is over.
The course that he is currently teaching is not offered this spring, but it is scheduled to be offered in fall 2007. Barrett said Tuesday that he would like to teach it or another course that semester. He said that he has spoken to two university officials, in separate departments, who are involved in hiring and that both encouraged him to apply.
Barrett has caused much controversy for teaching Sept. 11 conspiracy theories and advocating the theories outside the classroom. He said no one at the university has indicated that the controversy would hinder his teaching prospects.
"I talked in-depth with the people connected to hiring and said, 'Is it going to be impossible for me to teach in the future?' " said Barrett, who received his doctorate in African languages and literature, with a minor in folklore, from UW and who has taught a previous class on folklore at the university. "They said, 'No, go ahead and apply.' "
Over the summer, when Barrett's advocacy of the Sept. 11 conspiracy theories surfaced and sparked criticism, Provost Patrick Farrell conducted a 10-day review of Barrett's past teaching and his plans for the fall course on Islam. He determined that Barrett was fit to teach and that the alternative theory on 9-11 had a place in the classroom when taught along with other viewpoints, as Barrett intended.
Ten days after announcing the results of his review, the provost sent Barrett a letter saying he had given him the green light to continue teaching, based on an assurance that he could control his enthusiasm for views on Sept. 11 and "present them in class in an objective and balanced time frame and context." He said Barrett's behavior had suggested that might not be the case.
In interviews with national outlets from Fox News to The New York Times, Barrett has talked openly and enthusiastically about his belief that the Bush administration orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks for its own benefit. He has aggressively defended the theory in e-mails to politicians and other critics who say he is unfit to teach.
"If the situation arises that I don't have confidence that he can separate his views from what he teaches, I'll change my decision" to allow Barrett to teach, Farrell said in an August interview with the Journal Sentinel.
Last week, Barrett, who was paid $8,247 for teaching the fall semester course, concluded his fourth and final lecture on Sept. 11. Some students said he had succeeded in remaining impartial. Others disagreed, insisting that Barrett had pushed his agenda in the classroom.
Barrett sprinkled in the phrase "according to this analysis" periodically at the end of his sentences, when discussing the work of a Muslim writer who argues that U.S. and other Western intelligence agencies were sponsoring international terrorism, including the insurgency in Iraq. But he stated much of the writer's argument as fact and offered his own views or observations to bolster the claims.
Dennis Chaptman, a university spokesman, said Farrell wasn't available for an interview Tuesday. He said the administration would not be involved in determining whether Barrett could continue teaching. That decision, he said, rests solely with the individual departments.
"The departments do their own hiring," Chaptman said. "Barrett, like anyone else, is able to apply for positions for which he thinks he is qualified. He can submit his materials and apply like anyone else."Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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