Misplaced Priorities · 05 December 2006

By Charles Mitchell
Family Security Matters

“Your tax dollars are paying for the killing of American soldiers in Iraq. The CIA is paying for resistance in Iraq.”

That is how an instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison concluded a recent lecture. The subject was allegedly the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks—just as the course was allegedly on Islam.

The lecturer, Kevin Barrett, came to public attention earlier this year for spouting 9/11 conspiracy theories in his classroom. He thinks the government—not terrorists—blew up the World Trade Center, and he included such nonsense in his course. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, students studied “an essay by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, who argues that the Sept. 11 attackers were part of a broad network of terrorism sponsored by the United States and other Western intelligence agencies.”
Of course, when this all came to light, Barrett promised that he would teach, not preach—that his students would receive a proper education and the taxpayers’ dollars would be spent appropriately. Many concerns were expressed about Barrett’s academic freedom—that the administration might chill dissent if it responded in any meaningful way.
And the university bought it. He was allowed to teach as he wished. Hence those oh-so-scholarly comments on the CIA.
One might take the Madison administration’s decision simply to mean that those folks don’t get involved in politicized controversies. But one would be wrong.
But the administration doesn’t shy away from all politicized controversies—it gets involved only in the ones it deems important. Like statewide votes on the definition of marriage.
Take it from the student newspaper:
In accordance with [the Nov. 7] elections, University of Wisconsin Chancellor John Wiley spoke about the implications the marriage amendment could have on the university in his annual State of the University address Monday.
Wiley presented his speech to the UW Faculty Senate and drew applause from the audience when he urged the faculty to vote against the marriage amendment.
The university usually does not take a collective stance on political issues, according to Wiley, unless all governments within the university agree on a particular position.
“This Senate has passed a resolution opposing the marriage amendment,” Wiley said. “The Academic Staff Assembly has, the students have, the regents have … so I urge you to vote ‘No’ on that one.”
As of now, UW is the only Big Ten university that does not offer domestic partner benefits to its employees. Wiley said UW cannot offer domestic partner benefits because of the way “family” is defined with regard to health benefits.
So according to Wiley, regardless of what Wisconsin voters decide about the marriage amendment tomorrow, there will not be any immediate changes in university policy because the state statute would still stand.
“It just creates a climate of intolerance that is antithetical to the university, and that’s unfortunate,” Wiley said. “It’s unfortunate for the whole state.”
So, let’s get this straight. This administrator decided to speak out on a political issue despite his own statement that it had no effect on his university’s policies. But standing up to a guy who clearly likes injecting his political opinions into his teaching—which affects his students’ education—was out of the question?
Sounds like this university has an interesting set of priorities.
And if you don’t think classroom indoctrination has consequences, keep reading the Journal-Sentinel story that reported those wonderful comments on the CIA. It says this:
[Freshman Jesse] Moya, who said his uncle died in the World Trade Center attacks, said he had entered the course believing the attacks were the work of Islamic terrorists. He now believes otherwise.
“It seems like a more logical explanation that it was the U.S. government,” he said.
Good grief. Imagine how many other innocent students will acquire such definitions of what’s “logical” if universities don’t get some better priorities—soon.