When University of Wisconsin administrators hired Kevin Barrett last semester, they had no idea what they had signed up for. Since that time, Mr. Barrett has openly and repeatedly voiced his belief that the American government planned the Sept. 11 attacks in order to increase tension between the Muslim world and the West. UW's decision this summer to retain him has exacerbated poor relations between the university and state Legislature that are unlikely to improve any time soon.
Although Mr. Barrett's views are highly suspect, the choice to keep him at UW is not. In the past, legislators have rarely interfered with the personnel decisions made by UW, and that should remain the case. The university is lucky to have an array of teachers with different ideologies, and while most avoid including political opinions in their classes, it is impossible for those beliefs to never be expressed in public.
According to UW's website, more than 1,000 e-mails and calls have been received from concerned taxpayers in regards to Mr. Barrett, and numerous editorials have been penned in newspapers across the state. There is certainly much concern about his position at UW and it is not altogether unfounded.
The question remains whether Mr. Barrett is teaching his class because he loves the subject or if he is trying to create enough hype to advance his own career and views. He has repeatedly displayed an unprofessional demeanor in public appearances while eagerly pointing to the fact that he is employed by UW. One only needs to read his letter to Gov. Jim Doyle, which he signed as "Steve Nass, Reichschancellor, Thoughtcrime Division, University of Wisconsin-Madison," to question the level of integrity Mr. Barrett brings to the state's flagship university.
But academic freedom heeds respect, so it is imperative to consider Mr. Barrett's questionable theories in the marketplace of ideas. This board trusts that the students of UW are more than capable of drawing their own conclusions on the subject, and that they will react properly should Mr. Barrett's views be presented as fact in his class.