OSHKOSH — As Kevin Barrett protesters demonstrated outside Reeve Memorial Union at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Thursday, curious minds congregated inside to hear the lecture that may be all too familiar to Madison residents.
Barrett, who teaches Islam: Religion and Culture at UW-Madison, took the opportunity to speak to a new audience. UWO's College Greens, invited Barrett to speak at the UWO union.
UWO senior Jasmine James said knowledge of Kevin Barrett's scheduled appearance generated chaos on her campus. James added, the fact that Barrett's lecture was a ticketed event showed bias on the part of Campus Greens.
"I think that it's the people who participate in decent in American that should be respected," James said. "Anybody should be allowed to get in here, and now by putting tickets on it, it's like they're making a bigger deal out of something that doesn't necessarily need to be made a big deal out of."
Barrett was introduced by James Fetzer, University of Minnesota-Duluth professor and founder of Scholars for 9/11 Truth. The organization, of which Barrett is a member, suggests the events of Sept. 11, 2001, were an inside job conducted by the U.S. government.
Fetzer listed Barrett's academic credentials and expressed support of Barrett's employment and freedom of speech.
Since the summer, a primary condition of Barrett's employment at UW-Madison has been that he not present his beliefs as those of the university, and some have accused Barrett of coming close to violating that stipulation.
"Attacks on Kevin Barrett are grossly inappropriate and misconceived," Fetzer said. "Only the administration speaks for the institution."
But support for Barrett's presence was not universal throughout the Oshkosh campus.
Members of the UWO branch of College Republicans picketed outside the union, and several made their way to the lecture as well. Shortly after Barrett took the podium, UWO Police were forced to take action when dissenting students stood up and turned their backs to Barrett mid-lecture. The officers received applause as they escorted students out of the room.
One of the student demonstrators outside was UWO fifth-year senior Erin Kisley, who said that while she believes in academic freedom, Barrett is stepping over a thin red line.
"I don't want my student activity fees to be funding him to come here," Kisley said. "I think his teaching is wrong. I believe in freedom of speech, but as an education major, I also believe that you should be teaching facts instead of your own opinions."
Andrew Sabais, Chair of College Greens and UWO senior said many people view Barrett's presence at the university as an "embarrassment," but disagrees with Kisley.
"Tonight there is a big embarrassment for this university, and that is the College Republicans demonstrating outside against free speech," Sabais said.
Throughout his lecture, Barrett outlined details of his beliefs about the events of 9/11, including his belief that the World Trade Center towers fell because of a "controlled demolition," the lack of emergency reaction from the U.S. Air Force and other "radical implausibilities."
"To even look at this information is psychologically challenging," Barrett said. "This country is in dire straights, and we need your help to get the country back to the country we used to know."