The University of Wisconsin-Madison has threatened Kevin Barrett with dismissal if he continues to publicly endorse the theory that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were an inside job.
"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" allowing Barrett to teach, the university's provost, Patrick Farrell, said in an interview Thursday.
Farrell, who led a review of Barrett last month, determined that the part-time lecturer was fit to teach a fall course on Islam and that the 9-11 conspiracy theory had a place in the classroom. He said academic freedom demanded the decision.
Since then, Barrett has proved to be an eager subject of media attention. In interviews with national outlets from Fox News to The New York Times, he 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.
Although Farrell has continued to defend Barrett in public, he has been growing increasingly frustrated with him.
"I'm concerned about how he presents himself," Farrell said.
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.
"Your subsequent efforts to publicize your ideas suggest that publicity for your views is paramount," Farrell said in a July 20 letter, first obtained by The Associated Press. "If that were to continue, I would doubt your assurance that you will separate your own views and interests, as well as your capacity to separate them from what is needed for a good experience for our students.
"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," Farrell concluded, "I would lose confidence that your assurances with regard to the course can be believed."
The letter has had little effect. Barrett has continued to grant interviews to the media. He said in an interview Thursday that he had no intentions to stop.
Barrett said he had had to defend himself against critics who have called for him to be fired. He said he thought most people would view him as a credit to UW-Madison.
"They think my views reflect well on the university as a bastion of free speech," Barrett said.
So what would it take for the provost to fire Barrett?
"I'm not prepared to give a description of what would trigger the next step," Farrell said.