UW’s sponsorship of Mr. Barrett’s lecture ... lends his views instant credibility by being hosted by a top-flight research university. To be sure, UW in no way endorses Mr. Barrett’s views, but by facilitating the speech, the university did give tacit approval of his theories as a matter of serious academic debate.I don't quite understand this argument. If the subject can be covered in the course, why is it beyond the pale for a lecture? The argument may be that the problem comes when you reveal that you believe in something. But the students in his class know he believes the theory. So perhaps the important line is drawn when the teacher openly says what he believes. But take your example of a geography department hosting a lecture about how the earth is flat. That would, of course, make the geography department look ridiculous. But, in your argument, it would be fine for a geography teacher to take up the students' time with the theory that the earth is flat.
One is left to wonder what standards UW applies when determining which lecturers are to be allowed the use of taxpayer-funded facilities to voice their beliefs. Would the geography department allow a speaker to present his opinion that the world is flat? Would the history department sponsor a speech by someone that denies the Holocaust occurred?
Ultimately, it is UW’s duty — as an institution of higher learning funded in part by taxpayers — to promote scholarly research and vigorous academic debate. Mr. Barrett’s conspiracy theories thus far have failed to flirt with either principle.
If his conspiracy theories were published in an academic journal, instead of existing solely on a crudely constructed website, perhaps the lecture would be appropriate. Until then, UW should promote discussion rooted in scholarly analysis, not the grassy knoll.
October 2, 2006
The Badger Herald -- one of the UW student newspapers -- reconsiders its position on Kevin Barrett (the part-time teacher here who believes that the government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks). Initially, the paper supported the UW's decision to allow him to teach here, based on his assurances that he would have open debate as he covered the 9/11 conspiracy theory in his introductory course on Islam. Although the editors still believe he won't use his course to indoctrinate students, they are "troubled" by a lecture he gave on campus this weekend, sponsored by the UW Folklore Department.