1.8.06

WE ALREADY KNOW. The University of Wisconsin continues to make a bad defense of academic freedom.

The university’s chancellor, John D. Wiley, said that he was baffled by [CIA 9/11 conspiracy buff Kevin] Barrett’s beliefs but that they were irrelevant in the classroom, where he must stick to a syllabus that has been approved by the department. That syllabus includes a week devoted to the war on terror.

A 10-day university review had determined that Mr. Barrett presented a variety of viewpoints and that he had not discussed his personal opinions in the classroom, Mr. Wiley said.

“I think it would be a serious mistake for legislators to try to get in and micromanage curriculum,” said Mr. Wiley, who added that university officials would keep an eye on Mr. Barrett by meeting with him throughout the semester. “We don’t go around and question all our instructors to find out what all their views are.”

No, because you don't have to. "The University of Wisconsin is an affirmative action employer." Your "commitment to diversity" is a job qualification, and there are any number of remarks a search committee member can make at a job interview or on a campus visit to tease out the requisite sympathetic head-nod. Your promotion and tenure application might ask you to spell out the ways in which you have contributed to "Design for Diversity" and made efforts to "incorporate multiculturalism" in the classroom. (I can name promotion applications that have made these, and similarly insulting, requests of candidates.)

But the New York Times does a rather poor job of circling the wagons in defense of academic freedom.

At the University of Colorado, a committee voted in June to fire Ward L. Churchill, an ethnic studies professor who had compared some victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to a Nazi official. Professor Churchill appealed this month to keep his job.

And early this year at Northwestern University, Arthur R. Butz, a tenured professor of engineering, drew strong criticism after saying he agreed with the belief of the president of Iran that the Holocaust was a myth.

Mr Churchill was given his walking papers for academic misconduct (made-up credentials and plagiarism), not for making a botch of the "banality of evil" argument. Professor Butz has given Northwestern the opportunity for a long time to dis-associate itself from his private views as long as he does not bring them into the classroom. His current profile on a student gripe site suggests from the timestamps that some people added reviews when the story broke.

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