MADISON, Wis. -- University of Wisconsin's provost warned an instructor who believes the U.S. government orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks to stop seeking publicity for his views, days after he defended the teacher's right to free speech.
UW-Madison Provost Patrick Farrell also warned Kevin Barrett to stop associating himself with UW-Madison when he advocates his views. Otherwise, Farrell wrote in the July 20 letter, he would reconsider his decision to allow Barrett to teach a course on Islam this fall.
"In summary, if you continue to identify yourself with UW-Madison in your personal political messages or illustrate an inability to control your interest in publicity for your ideas, I would lose confidence ... ," he wrote in the letter, obtained by The Associated Press in an open records request.
The letter came 10 days after Farrell decided to retain Barrett as a part-time instructor for the fall semester course, "Islam: Religion and Culture," despite calls to fire him.
The decision has sparked a major backlash against UW-Madison, with 61 state lawmakers denouncing the move. The Ozaukee County Board voted Wednesday to cut funding to next year's UW Extension program by $8,247 -- the amount Barrett will earn for the course -- in a symbolic protest that could spread to other counties.
Announcing his decision on July 10, Farrell declared, "We cannot allow political pressure from critics of unpopular ideas to inhibit the free exchange of ideas."
Mike Mikalsen, an aide to Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said Farrell's letter "makes a mockery of his earlier statements" that he was committed to protecting Barrett's ideas and may signal the school is looking for a way to fire him.
"It stuns me they would put that kind of threat in writing because they have set a standard that Barrett's already broken," he said, noting Barrett gave an interview on Fox News on Thursday morning. "He has not backed off one iota."
Farrell said he wanted Barrett to know that he could reconsider his decision if he did not meet expectations. He said Barrett has "modestly made some efforts" to cut down on publicity.
"I was trying to be fairly careful to not inhibit his privilege of speaking freely," he said. "My point was that he should be aware as he exercises those rights there may be a time when I have to rethink the assurances he has given me about his ability to separate his opinions from what happens in the classroom."
Farrell launched a review of Barrett's course plans after he gave a radio interview in which he said he planned to teach students his views that the U.S. government carried out the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to spark war.
The provost concluded Barrett was qualified to teach and he could present his ideas during one week of the course as long as students were allowed to challenge them.
But the letter shows Farrell, UW-Madison's No. 2 official, became frustrated with Barrett's handling of himself during the national media frenzy that ensued.
Barrett has appeared on national television shows and given dozens of interviews to discuss his theories and has been erroneously described as a professor rather than a part-time instructor. He is also active in a group of scholars who share his views.
Farrell scolded Barrett for identifying himself as a UW-Madison instructor in e-mails in which he challenged others to debate his theories. The provost said the challenges suggest "that you speak for the university -- precisely what I told you was inappropriate in that context."
Barrett said he understood Farrell's frustration and his desire that "the media hoopla would die down." But he said he told Farrell he was only defending himself in the media in the face of repeated attacks and that he had turned down many interviews.
"I have not sought publicity," Barrett wrote in an e-mail message to The AP.