July 13, 2006

"University of Wisconsin crazy professor."

Just a Google search where I come in #1, as I noticed this morning from my Site Meter referrals page. The search takes you to this post, but the more vivid ongoing comments discussion is on this post, where I was struck by something Sippican Cottage wrote yesterday at 11:59, after some dissection of conspiracy theory points: "You're all f*cking evil to say these things for your own amusement or personal and political gain." I responded: "I've been continually saying the theory is crazy or nutty, but I think that's a big pulled punch. I think the smart people involved in propagating it know they are lying."

ADDED: And then there's the Google Search of the Day for me, where I'm not just #1, I'm the only one.

UPDATE: Here's an op-ed in the local newspaper about Barrett, written by UW history grad student Patrick Michelson. Excerpt:
Academic freedom rightly protects scholars who wish to examine controversial issues and unfashionable ideas. But Barrett's conspiracy theories do not fall into those categories. His assertions are not informative, enlightening, or even provocative. At best they are delusions - at worst, lies - that he tells to promote a personal agenda. The University of Wisconsin should have treated them as such.

147 comments:

ben wallace said...

Cui bono? Kevin Barrett.

Gerry said...

*applause*

Old Dad said...

Ann,

I think you're right, although there are certainly some who really believe this nonsense.

It's interesting to speculate, though, about what's in it for the smart liars? Fifteen minutes of fame. A couple TV spots? Money?

I guess it's the Cindy Sheehan path to fun and profit.

paulfrommpls said...

Yes. For most. Some of the smart in-a-limited-sense people actually believe it. That's a form of craziness I think.

P. Froward said...

I'm not sure I agree, exactly. I think the line between knowing you're lying and not knowing you're lying is less clear than people assume.

How do we decide what to believe about things that happen when we're not watching? How much direct experience do we really have of world events? And what's an eyewitness worth anyway?

I'm certainly not arguing that there's no objective truth, nor am I unaware that even when everybody's wrong to some degree, some of them are a hell of a lot wronger than others — just that there are no clear quanta on the Bullshit Scale.

paulfrommpls said...

And I think it's like an addiction, too, for some, and one way it's similar is the longer you stick with it the harder it is to turn around. Because you're admitting you wasted your time in what amounts to a cult, to mix metaphors. Although cult membership has addiction qualities too.

The “inside job” theories on 9-11 are a bonsai (for now) version of what’s gone wrong with left thinking. Or rather what tends to go wrong when left alone for too long. When put into an environment with no natural enemies.

Intelligent obsessive-compulsives apply their skills to the most arcane details, they gather steam, they come up with a theory and sub-theories, they egg each other on, they increasingly outnumber the poor saps whose lonely job it is to provide the rebuttals.

J said...

"I think the smart people involved in propagating it know they are lying."

As p froward points out, the mental line between true and false isn't always as clear as we'd like to think. I would guess in this case that the perps believe establishing that line requires the impossible task of disproving a negative, and thus affords them plausible deniability.

For Ann, is there any awareness in the university community of the damage "crazy professors" are doing to the credibility of their profession?

Ann Althouse said...

"For Ann, is there any awareness in the university community of the damage 'crazy professors' are doing to the credibility of their profession?"

It's summer, so there's not a lot of opportunity to engage in the usual hallway talk, but I do think people here care. They also care very much about academic freedom, and I think people are really torn. At least in the law school, self-criticism is more prevalent than you might think.

RogerA said...

The story of Mr Barrett is interesting on many levels--the discussion on academic freedom and governance and free speech have been enlightening--It is really hard to draw the lines, I guess.

I am struck by the fact that Mr. Barrett is simply cashing in--his performance on H & C and the resulting publicity is going to make this guy a mint of money and speaking fees at many places throughout the country--there is a sucker born every minute, and UW appears to be the ones being manipulated. You have to give Mr. B a lot of credit--a marketing genius. (Most) sarcasm off.

AJ Lynch said...

Re you are the only one....are you bragging again?

And where do you find the time to give your fans such a wide range of topics?

Buddy Larsen said...

On the H&C show, Barrett met the early challenge with an astonished-like head-jerk, and a voice shift to the high-register signal of exasperation, saying "Are you telling me that the World Trade center was brought down by nineteen box-cutters and some guy in a cave in Afghanistan? That's ridiculous!"

The whole bit was so obviously practiced (he even stepped on his punchline), so planned to appear spontaneous, such a bully-boy ploy to ridicule the questioner, such a howling reductio ad absurdum, that I knew at that moment that the guy's claim to be only interested in the truth was going to be the biggest lie.

the pooka said...

The “inside job” theories on 9-11 are a bonsai (for now) version of what’s gone wrong with left thinking. Or rather what tends to go wrong when left alone for too long. When put into an environment with no natural enemies.

Actually, "left" thinking is far from the only kind that can and does go radically wacko when left to its own devices. (No need to burden anyone with examples here; I'm sure we all have our favorites...).

PatCA said...

I applaud the op-ed. I hope the grad student will not suffer any blowback.

sonicfrog said...

I suggest that the majority of people who espouse these type of theories truly believe them. We all have blind spots in our belief systems caused by strong unquestioning beliefs in something, say religion or science, or great levels of distrust in institutions, such as government and / or media, that causes us to buy into superstitions or conspiracy theories that we otherwise would not. And you know you are right because the “alternative” theory or explanation, no matter how far fetched or unlikely, reaffirms other things you already believe.

Seven Machos said...

"The Paranoid Style in American Politics" is a good primer on intelligent people who believe in loony conspiracies.

I think that people who spout the conspiracy theories believe the theories. The reason they believe is because the theories provide a sense of security. If someone is controlling things, it's a lot easier to accept what's going on.

Think about this, Ann Althouse: in a way, your theory that the conspiracy theorists don't really believe the theories is itself a conspiracy theory. Is it in a way more comforting to believe that there are people in the upper echelons, so to speak, who don't really believe all this bullshit? Does thinking that the conspiracy theories are fraudulent provide a sense of security by making it seem like someone is in control?

I would also point to the story in another thread about the Stanford professor who was into eugenics. There are tons of stories like that, of otherwise intelligent people who get wrong ideas in their heads and persist with them. Take Karl Marx. He was obviously brilliant. Yet he designed an economic system that is fundamentally unworkable. Take Alger Hiss. Millions of people believed he wasn't a spy.

knoxgirl said...

Mmm, when it comes down to it, I think probably none of them, "smart" or dumb, really believe this bullsh*t in their heart-of-hearts.

Obviously some of the other commenters here feel such a level of self-deception is possible, but to me, these people don't care much about truth/facts in the first place and are only looking for more ways to stroke their visceral hatred of Bush.

CB said...

Why shouldn't schools "teach the controversy" about 9/11 conspiracy theories, to borrow a phrase from the "intelligent design" advocates?

Buddy Larsen said...

Pooka--yes, we all have our favorites--mine is "Memogate".

Seven Machos said...

Why should schools teach "evolution," cb, when it's really complex, when schools will only spend a few hours on it, and when a lot of kids don't "read" very well or understand "fractions."

chuck b. said...

It's kind of interesting to me that a white man is teaching an Intro to Islam course. This would have provoked all manner of protest at my alma mater. Is Barrett even a Muslim? What about his TA's?

I'm not saying a white man can't teach Islam, but lefty-prog students don't usually follow that line of reasoning. There would be endless intemperate discussions of racism, colonisation, and all the other petty obsessions of the academic class in order to even get the ball rolling.

Seven Machos said...

chuck b. -- The greatest professor in America today on Islam and the Arabs is Bernard Lewis, a white man at Princeton.

I would be interested to know his take on all this. He probably couldn't care less. In th great sweep of history, Kevin Barrett is not even a small piece of lint.

Ann Althouse said...

Chuck: He is a convert to Islam, I believe. Why aren't students protesting? Partly, it's that they aren't around in the summer. I've been told the enrollment to the course is very low. There is a problem finding qualified people to teach in this field, so it's not like there is someone else who was passed over.

Ann Althouse said...

But I think the failure of students to complain about this is very troubling. Why don't students who actually want to study Islam complain? Why don't Muslim students protest that an embarrassingly foolish conspiracy theory is being interwoven with their religion in the course? If they don't protest or at least complain, does it suggest they believe the theory or want others to believe it? It was once a good strategy to be quiet and starve this of publicity, but is it still?

chuck b. said...

Just to note: Bernard Lewis is Professor Emeritus.

This is Princeton's Near Eastern Studies department today.

CB said...

7M,

True, but my point is that "intelligent design" (I can't write that without the scare quotes) is a conspiracy theory, pure and simple. Its adherents look at an event or state of affairs and conclude that it could not have just happened, and that someone must be behind it. The mentality and methodology are exactly the same.

Seven Machos said...

Yeah, I guess when you start pushing three digits, the University eases you out at some point no matter how brilliant you are...

Seven Machos said...

cb: People who want to teach the theory that God acted and/or acts as an agent in the universe do so because they believe in God. They are "religious."

There is fundamentally no reason why both evolution and God cannot coexist, and cannot both be true.

All of this is neither here nor there, but you can't accuse people who believe in God of being on a par with 9/11 conspiracy theorists and expect to be taken seriously.

Buddy Larsen said...

cb is right, in that the argument is basically "You can't possibly know everything about this"--to which the obvious answer is the question: "Then how can you possibly know that ?"

chuck b. said...

Not just the students, what do the alumni have to say about this? And the other faculty?

This man should be conspicuously, unequivocally marginalized.

All the wailing and gnashing of teeth about academic freedom leaves me cold. If Barrett really believes what he's peddling, if all this really means something to him, why shouldn't he suffer for it?

(Academic) Freedom isn't free.

sonicfrog said...

I love a good conspiracy theory. The latest juicy one is that Joe Wilson had Mark Goodman (name may be wrong), a former college roommate and good friend who worked at the CIA at the time of the leak, leaked the Plame name to Karl Rove, with the expectation that once Wilson questioned the WMD's report, Rove would leak Plame's name to the press and a scandal would erupt and bring down the Bush administration. It's so elegant in a clumsy ballerina kinda way. I love it.

Buddy Larsen said...

Back before we evolved beyond our capacity for shame, there was a thing called "shunning". It may seem a cruel way for a community to protect itself, but in the end it's actually not, as it acts to prevent the lynching and witch trials that can be brought on when the community social compact breaks down.

CB said...

7M,
You're putting words in my mouth; I am making the narrow claim that ID seems to use the same method as a conspiracy theory, viz. the only evidence of the theorist's position is the problems (real or perceived) of the other side's position.

ada47 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ada47 said...

OK, now without the typos
Exactly, buddy larson.

What burns my a** is wondering where the hell are all the liberals of conscience? In the end, this guy helps support Sean Hannity and David Horowitz, convinces everyone that the academic left is way out of control and needs to be reigned in, drives intelligent moderat students away from progressive politics, and fills the ranks of the Democratic party with impressionable America-hating over priveleged spoiled brats like himself. So who gets hurt? Progressives, liberals and Democrats.

And, after six years as a professor, I'm starting to think we (liberals, progressives and Democrats) deserve whatever Sean Hannity dishes at us unless we distance ourselves from nut cases like this. If I were conspiratorial, I would propose this guy is a right wing plant, whose purpose in life is to undermine liberalism and higher education. But I'm a little more reasonable that that.

And I don't think he knows he's lying. He's so freaking crazy that he is convinced he's right. I know too many people like him. Divorced from reality.

Seven Machos said...

CB -- Are you suggesting that religious people think the only evidence of their own position is the flaws in the theory of evolution?

Perhaps you should discuss the matter with a religious person before making such sweeping claims.

Danny said...

Ann: You are also quoted in today's Isthmus opinion piece by radio show host Charles Sykes.

Buddy Larsen said...

ada47 knows his party's way out of the wilderness.

Might I offer that there is little along the lines of Bill Clinton's "sistah solja" moment to be expected from present national leadership. Regardless of what verbal formulas are excrutiatingly-derived and pandered, the credibility gap has simply grown too wide for the national electorate.

The party's solution--in terms of winning national elections-- is going to have to come bottom-up, and from the centrists.

It's going to be brutal, but there is no time like the present to start the housecleaning.

Mike said...

Well, if it's in Isthmus, it must be true. How could could I have been so deceived?

Gerry said...

"The party's solution--in terms of winning national elections-- is going to have to come bottom-up, and from the centrists."

They better hurry up, because the number of centrists is dwindling and are actively being hunted.

tjl said...

"University of Wisconsin crazy professor." - crazy like a fox. Barrett has given a model performance of how to draw media attention to himself. The more outrageous the theories, the more irresistible he becomes. How else could he have parlayed his rather dim credentials into his new role as icon to the left?
As pointed out by Ann and others, it's quite possible he doesn't even believe the theories himself, but it makes no difference because he has already succeeded in making himself the star of his very own media circus. In the wake of all the hoopla, his course will probably be oversubscribed by thrill-seeking undergraduates.

Pogo said...

I wouldn't want the outcome of this to depend on student complaints. Their incentives, punishments, and interests lie elsewhere. Especially true in an introductory course, as Ann has pointed out already.

The fundamental disorder the continued presence of Barrett as a lecturer on the UW Campus represents is the abdication of responsibility for course content. Those in charge instead counsel ignorance, fantasy, and crackpotted craziness in equal measure, lest someone suggest their right to say nutty things was infringed.

That is, there are no adults in charge at UW Madison.

Buddy Larsen said...

"...there are no adults in charge at UW Madison" and that's just how the loonies love it.

Old Dad said...

CB,

While I disagree with ID's current critique of evolution, the movement has a long and distinguished intellectual pedigree including St. Thomas Aquinas.

Every movement has its kooks, but I wouldn't lump most IDers in with 9/11 deniers. There are flaws in evolutionary theory, but the evidence for evolution is overwhelming.

There can be no doubt that we didn't blow up the WTC.

ID, in my mind, is a topic worthy of discussion in a college classroom, perhaps in a history of science course, or a theology course.

Barret's nonsense has no business on campus. I suspect we agree

ada47 said...

Buddy Larsen said "It's going to be brutal, but there is no time like the present to start the housecleaning"

Where do I get a mop?

If we don't start in academia, we might as well forget it. Retirement will solve some of this, but I can't wait another 15 years.

Incidentally Ann, and other Madison-ites, I was in Madison for a conference last month, and though I half fell in love the the place (the lake, the safety, State Street, the plexiglass cows), I was also struck with this realization, no this revelation, of why it is that the Democrats keep losing elections and have lost all credibility. Madison seems to be chock-full of the kind of "liberalism" that so turns off most Americans. Scruffy twentysomethings pissing on the sidewalk, scrawling anti-Bush graffiti everywhere, T-shirts that say things like "Homeland Security-Fighting Terrorism Since 1492" (ha ha, I get it!), and anti-war lawn signs that go beyond the usual idiotically simplistic "war is not the answer" variety seen here in Texas (yes, even Texas has liberals), but spout some variation on the Bush=Satan, no blood for oil theme.

Was I over-reacting (I'm a little bit of an angry centrist at the moment, you may have noticed), or is it really that bad? Sitting by the lake drinking my latte from Espresso Royale made it go away for a while, but still, how does someone who is not part of the wacked-out left stand it there.

J said...

"They also care very much about academic freedom, and I think people are really torn. At least in the law school, self-criticism is more prevalent than you might think"

What about public criticism of professors who are idiots, and the administrators that hire them? I'd settle for a statement from the faculty to the effect of "when we have a question about physics or the properties of various metals, we don't normally go to an Islamic Studies professor for answers".

Tibore said...

*Sigh*...

I'm so tired of the consipracy theories floating around... how does a person debunk all of them? Has anyone seen the sheer number of "This is the truth (snicker) behind 9/11" sites there are? It's overwhelming!

I remember reading a quote from a scientist - "Do geologists respond to every flat-earther that grabs a soapbox?", or something like that... - and thinking "Maybe all this lunacy will go away on it's own". And I try to stay level headed, but every time I hear of someone getting the stage, or the camera, or the mic... it's just too much. How does someone debunk all of it? I'm just so tired...

Mike said...

how does someone who is not part of the wacked-out left stand it there?

Most of the time, it's pretty amusing. Having grown up here, it seems normal (even though I know it's not).

Buddy Larsen said...

There's another group that ought to disclaim him, j. Muslims, because he's justifying the jihad.

Buddy Larsen said...

Mike, don't let ada47 kid you, the UT/Austin area ain't nooo different.

Mike said...

So I've heard, Buddy. So I've heard.

AlaskaJack said...

CB, you're right. Us Darwiniacs gotta stick together. Why just the other day some guy was trying to tell me that "intelligent design" had something to do with Mt. Rushmore. Whatta blockhead!

ada47 said...

Hey, who said anything about UT/Austin? I'm in nice, normal, well-behaved Houston.

PatCA said...

If you wonder why students are not complaining, you have to distinguish between 'students' and 'student activists'. Muslim activists would probably support this man teaching because it stokes similar theories floating around the Arab world, blaming Bush rather than their brothers for starting a religious war. Regular students, Muslim or otherwise, I'm sure feel intimidated by campus speech codes against criticizing other cultures.

And I haven't seen Barrett's syllabus, but I'm sure this course will be the usual apologia about Islam--who better than a US convert to teach its universal appeal, tolerance, peacefulness?

Mike said...

Why just the other day some guy was trying to tell me that "intelligent design" had something to do with Mt. Rushmore. Whatta blockhead!

Yeah. Everybody knows Mt. Rushmore was created by erosion. It's amazing what nature can do, given enough time.

brylin said...

Barrett would be nowhere without Farrell.

And UW Provost Farrell views this as an anti-Bush political statement, regardless of any issue of truth.

Farrell has weighed the disadvantage to Wisconsin's reputation against the value of an anti-Bush slam and has clearly decided that the latter is more valuable.

brylin said...

Farrell's bio is here.

It is interesting to note his background is in engineering.

Buddy Larsen said...

If Barrett's Muslim, what he's doing is called taqiyya. A jihad front, opened up on the UW campus.

Buddy Larsen said...

It's infernally circular, as it is false unless the practioner is under duress--which he has for a fact put himself under. But, the duress is self-manufactured, so the guy has to be an apostate, or infidel, within his own terms.

brylin said...

What a well-written piece by UW history grad student Patrick Michelson!

Michelson for Provost!

Elizabeth said...

I would hope to see the UW faculty senate make some sort of statement against Barrett in the fall. In Colorado, the faculty investigated the claims of Ward Churchill's flawed scholarship and recommended his firing. Scholarship, and the relevance of the topic to his credentials, is the salient issue in Barrett's case. He simply is not credentialed to make claims, or investigate claims in a scholarly setting, that have to do with engineering. If what he teaches in class is outside of the credentials that put him in front of that classroom, then other faculty have every right to complain. If he's publishing on this theory outside of the classroom, and not presenting that material toward hiring or tenure, then the faculty committees have no role.

The Drill SGT said...

I posted this in that massive Barrett blog yesterday, and it was likely missed by mist, so I feel no reservation in boring you again:

Let's put aside the fact that Barrett is an idiot for a second. Let's talk about the LCA department.

Barrett apparently was a TA for Memon,Muhammad U, who is the normal instructor for LCA 370, the course in question. In fact Memon is teaching the course right now in Summer school, so the operative questions might be:

1. What does the Memon syllabus look like?
2. Does he believe and teach 9/11, the Conspiracy in his class this week?
3. If not why not?
4. Did he recommend Barrett for the position as his stand in for LCA 370?
5. Who beyond Rafferty, the Chairman, was involved in the decision?

Elsewhere the other day, I saw a Barrett quote that basically said, They are going to let me teach the truth at UW, what I'm saying must be true. The Provost is insane himself to allow the UW to be used in this circular argument.

If I were Provost I would have laid this law down.

1. Engineering theories have are not the proper topic for an Islam Culture course. Teach the Syllabus provided by the normal professor, no major deviations are expected or desired.
2. LCA Department, watch this guy and ensure that he does no further harm to your reputation, the reputation of UW or Islam.
3. Barrett, we understand freedom of speech here at UW, so we'll arrange a debate between 3 of your advocates and 3 professors, chosen 1 each from the Physics, Chemistry and Civil/Structural Engineering departments. You can express your opinions in a free and open dialog as we winnow through this. I will moderate. In the mean time, go reread the syllabus and lets get on with teaching.

Dawn said...

how does someone who is not part of the wacked-out left stand it there?

The Old Style Dark beer available at The Terrace on Friday evenings sure helped!

ada47, I imagine you didn't venture too far from campus on your visit. I lived in Middleton (about 14 years ago), and the mentality there was lightyears different from around the campus area. I also lived off Stevens Street after we got married; the mix was UW employees/non-UW employees and a lot of retired folks. The attitude there was more leftist than Middleton, but nobody I recall walked around in Che teeshirts, dreds and Birkenstocks.

I wouldn't live in Madison anymore, but the surrounding areas have really grown, and I'd give it a go again, just not in Madison proper.

Mike said...

Elizabeth said: I would hope to see the UW faculty senate make some sort of statement against Barrett in the fall.

I've been on the UW faculty senate (albeit a decade ago). I wouldn't hold your breath over that one (though I'd love to be proven wrong).

Buddy Larsen said...

As far as a town's political identity, Houston is the best of the classical left--a bootstrap town, full of working class people driving hard to get in on the American dream. Dallas is financial and old country-club Rockefeller, Austin is a hip-at-all-costs government town, and San Antonio is our open city, a smiling land port on the great Latin world. Just in case anybody was wonderin'.
:-\

SteveR said...

Buddy don't forget Ft Worth, where the West begins, but otherwise I agree with you.

Danny said...

http://www.news.wisc.edu/12709.html

I agree with Prof. Downs on all counts, except labeling the Badger Herald conservative which it most definitely is not.

P. Froward said...

Regarding the academic fraud/Ward Churchill issue that Elizabeth raises above, isn't there a difference between telling the students nonsense in class, and writing nonsense in a published paper? Also, if it's outside your own field, is that different?

These seem like meaningful distinctions to me; what's the usual view in academia about that?

I wouldn't want to tell professors they can't go off topic in lectures. You can't stand over people like that. And if they go outside their fields, they're bound to make asses of themselves just like anybody (See William Shockley, Noam Chomsky, Philippe Rushton, Robert Faurisson, A. K. Dewdney, ad nauseam (no, wait, we've gone beyond nauseam already...)).

Ward Churchill was an easy one: Published fraud in his own field. BZZT! But somewhere you start violating the fundamental human right to be full of crap.

Buddy Larsen said...

"Hands Off My Right To Be Full Of Crap!"

ben wallace said...

Barrett plans on providing students with alternative ideas about 9/11. These ideas, if they are to be rejected, should be rejected because they are persistently refuted within the university. These ideas should not be rejected by a political resolution. If sifting and winnowing towards the truth means anything, it means that Barrett should be allowed to discuss a theory and evidence and other should be encouraged to accept or reject his logic. The idea of sifting and winnowing to find truth is inconsistent with political determination of legitimate discourse within the university. Steve Nass would do well to reconsider the wisdom of the politicians who were the framers of the UW idea.

The Drill SGT said...

Ben,

You're right in the abstract.

However... Perhaps from Nass's point of view, the academy seems to have two sets of standards for Freedom of speech. If you are on the left, the academy seems to stand firm to protect your freedom to say any damn thing you want. If your viewpoint is right of Mao, then the academy often seems to want to use speech codes to rule you out of order. Example, can you imagine some professor in the engineering department going off topic and railing about how Islam is at war with Western civilization and has been since the year 700. That those ragheads have oil, but haven't developed a new idea since 1400 and their whole economies are run by paid outsiders because the ragheads don't have an education system that encourages free thought and expression?

where would Farrell be on that question?

Tibore said...

"These ideas, if they are to be rejected, should be rejected because they are persistently refuted within the university... If sifting and winnowing towards the truth means anything, it means that Barrett should be allowed to discuss a theory and evidence and other should be encouraged to accept or reject his logic."

In all due respect, teaching a class isn't the same as having a discussion or a debate. The instructor is not in a position as an equal debating equally informed opponents. The instructor is in a position of authority delivering information to students. What give and take exists does so within the parameters of what the instructor defines as acceptable.

Look, I don't object one bit to any university providing people with Barrett's views a forum for debate and discussion. But a class is not such a forum! You don't go into a chemistry class and challenge the instructor over the concepts of atomic orbitals. You don't go into a basic programming class and challenge the instructor over the definition of structured programming. You don't go into a religious studies class and challenge the instructor about importance of the New Testament to Christianity. But students are supposed to challenge the instructor over the validity of his ideas about 9/11?

Equals challenge each other. A professor has the rank and knowledge to challege other professors. Graduate teaching assistance have the level of knowledge to challenge other grad TA's. Students have the levels of knowledge to challenge other students. If a university wanted to provide a forum for 9/11 theories to be truly debated then that forum must allow for the equality of the sides debating. An instructor - student relationship is not such a relationship! It is not equal!

Why does everyone saying Barrett should be allowed to teach not understand or acknowledge this? I'm not saying "muzzle Barrett". If he was in a forum with other instructors presenting other sides where the audience is not dependent on the participants for their grade, then that would be a true discussion or debate. A class is not. We can not view his teaching his ideas in a class as any sort of "debate" or "discussion" precisely because students are not equals in rank, stature, or knowledge. Why is everyone who's saying Barrett should teach that syllabus not acknowledging this?

ben wallace said...

Drill Sgt: Excellent point. I agree that it is imperative to determine if university officials are applying the principle of academic freedom in an unbiased manner. The university should support academic freedom in a way that defends faculty regardless of their ideological orientation. Although history suggests the UW may not apply the principle of academic freedom in an unbiased manner (given the administration has supported speech codes in the past disproportionately affecting conservative faculty), I suspect that Farrell will continue to apply the principle in an unbiased manner. It is not a coincidence that most of the faculty supporting Barrett also rejected the speech codes at the university. Their experiences demonstrat the importance of insulating all ideas from politics.

PatCA said...

Agreed, Drill Sgt.

Also, when you say "persistently refuted within the university," other professors should present evidence in that same class, not freshman students--if this 'debate' should be allowed at all.

As I said before, a professor has the affirmative duty to present the most truthful information he or she can. For any vestige of academic freedom to apply, the information should be complete--the burden cannot fall on young students to spend time and effort to "sift and winnow" evidence and determine whether or not their instructors are charlatans. Should a Civil War History class devote a week to a debate on justifications for slavery, or the racial superiority of whites, and then let the students decide for themselves some day!?

If you really think someone should actually "teach" this information, a class called Conspiracy Theory 101 with opposing sides debating freely would teach them about critical thinking. O/w it's just more stealth politicization.

ben wallace said...

Tibore: I agree that the power relation between faculty and students should be taken seriously. At the same time, faculty provide both information (facts) and interpretation of information (interpretation of facts). The intepretations should be debated, as opposed to legislated. To the extent Barrett provides selective information, he should be criticized. To the extent his interpretations violate the canons of logic, he should be criticized. But both of these problems occur all the time in social science and history courses. Students have to come in willing to question things. If the choice is between placing the burden on students to question the intepretations offered by faculty and allowing politicians to choose the interpretation that they feel students will agree with, I will take the former.

ben wallace said...

Patca: I agree that the best course for this information would be a course on social inquiries into 9/11 and that the course should be team-taught with members of several departments. One of the problems this issue poses is that firing Barrett could reduce the willingness of instructors to teach such a course. This is troubling to the extent that such a course would probably be beneficial to students.

SippicanCottage said...
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ben wallace said...

SC: Barrett has a PHD, a teaching record at UW that is considered to be at least satisfactory as measured by university-wide standards, only allocates 1 or 2 weeks of a 15 week course to 9/11, and plans to consider at least two other hypotheses regarding 9/11 besides the inside job hypothesis. Barrett appears far more extreme in his function as an advocate for what he calls 9/11 truth that he has been as a TA, instructor, and graduate student. His outside activities should not be held against him in deciding whether or not he is qualified to teach in the classroom.

SippicanCottage said...
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The Drill SGT said...

SC,

Hot about this one?

Ben seems rational for a UW prof type.

I suspect he is somewhere to the right of Mao, which makes him Rove material at UW.

Seven Machos said...

Wow, Ben A Wisconsin professor has a Ph.D. Ooohh! Aaahh!! Maybe next you'll tell me that Marvin Bush should be president. He's 35 and an American citizen.

P. Froward said...

SC, you don't understand; it's an honor for us to pay the salaries of lunatics who despise us. Just ask 'em.

DNR Mom said...

This whole Barrett hoo-ha is so analogous to Rush Limbaugh disputing things like the facts about global warming. It's also the very reason we sift & winnow at U-Dub & are free to become cafeteria academics. Barrett's students can learn more from his outrageousness than from the other 2 or 3 dozen PC profs they'll encounter as undergrads.

Elizabeth said...

p. froward, I'll confess to having been full of crap in class before, and I expect it will happen again. But I'm not sure that basing a significant unit of instruction on an area outside my expertise, and in the process getting the technical information flat-out wrong, wouldn't have repurcussions for me academically. As for publishing, you're right; one's peers are probably going to be concerned only with the peer-reviewed publications in your academic field.

I mentioned an example from my university on another thread; this economics professor is part of a lunatic fringe of race theorists, and he publishes and lectures on their circuit. It isn't part of his curriculum, he doesn't bring it to campus, and he's tenured, so even while it has caused some broughaha in the press and among students and faculty, there's nothing the university can do. After a brief flareup of letters to the editor, a condemnation by the chancellor and some workshops by student groups, the whole thing died down and nobody pays him any attention.

Gordon N. Trenchard said...

would prefer that someone not be fired for their political views, but I think when your views are in the "loony" category they are fair game (I realize this is incredibly subjective and could be used against me and my fellow conservatives). I mean shouldn't the fact that someone denies the Holocaust ever happened be considered when there up for a teaching job? While, saying that the government was behind 9/11 is nowhere as hateful or simply crazy as denying the Holocaust, I do think it crosses a line of acceptability. Would you hire someone for a faculty position who had prominently claimed that Bill Clinton was behind the Oklahoma City Bombing?

ben wallace said...

Elizabeth: Edward Miller should be allowed to analyze the effect of intelligence on economic well-being and Kevin Barrett should be allowed to propose a conspiracy theory. These hypohteses should not be ruled out as illegitimate by politicians. We know that there are many hypotheses that politicians would exclude from academic discourse. This may be warranted in some cases, but a conspiracy theory about the government is not one of those cases.

SippicanCottage said...

I'm inclined to agree with DNR Mom.

It appears that an education at The UW is on par with listening to a high school educated disc jockey on AM radio three hours a day.

Since it's precisely that intellectually rigorous, it should cost the same. You should broadcast Gold Bond Powder commercials over your intercom thrice an hour there, and drop your tuition to zero.

Maybe you can harangue the sort of people interested in an education like that to "sift and winnow" through their couch cushions for loose change to buy "George Bush blew up the Twin Towers and all I got is this crummy UW T-shirt" and coffee mugs on the side.

Seven Machos said...

1. Which classes is Rush Limbaugh teaching at Wisconsin and where did he get his Ph.D? His M.A.? His Bachelor's degree?

2. Please rank in order of demonstratability: (a) global warming is occurring; (b) global warming iscaused by humans; (c) 19 terrorists caused September 11.

Buddy Larsen said...

It was hotter'n heck outside today, I know that, you can't take that away from me.

ben wallace said...

SC, Machos: Suppose you are right, that the Barrett hire is just fucking wrong. What is the rule that UW faculty should follow in deciding to hire someone for a tenure-track job? What about the standards for hiring a lecturer?

ada47 said...

ben wallace, while most reasonable people would support the free exchange of ideas, even objectionable ones, in the classroom, there must be some rules governing that exchange. It's bad enough that Barrett is teaching a theory based on "evidence" that he is not qualified to evaluate. What is worse, is that the ideas are not approrpiate for the course that he is teaching.

I'm a biologist, and when I teach stem cell biology, for example, I believe I have a professional obligation to avoid commenting on the political and ethical aspects of the stem cell debate. I teach what stem cells are, where they come from, what they can do, how they were discovered, what kinds of stem cell populations have been identified, what characteristics they have, etc.

I have no formal training in ethics, and any comments I would make on the political or ethical issues in the debate would be merely my opinion. And if someone ever asked for my opinion, I would not give it during class, because I would not want to use my position of authority to unfarily bias my students toward my opinion. My job is to teach them about stem cells, not about stem cell politics.

Barrett's course is about Islam, and Islam is historically and currently intertwined with politics, I realize that, and scholarship in the social sciences and humanities is of a more political nature than is natural science (at least that was true before 2001). Still, after seeing this guy on Hannity (which diminishes what little credibility he may have had anyway), I have a hard time believing he could objectively evaluate any student who did not share his belief, or in his words, certain knowledge, that Bush blew up the WTC.

Seven Machos said...

Ben -- That's not the issue. The issue is: who has the authority to fire this guy? I like to go out on a limb with you, so I'm going to go out on a limb here and say you haven't spent too much time in the private sector.

If you have, what are the rules for hiring and firing pizza delivery people? Grocery baggers? The produce guy? Marketing directors?

You hire people. You fire people. Based on your judgment. That's it. That's the end of the story.

ben wallace said...

Machos: The LCA department hired him and they can fire him. They did not fire him and the university supported that decision. Hence, the proper exercise of authority would be to fire the people in the department who hired him. I think such a decision would make more sense than firing a guy who plans on spending an hour on a conspiracy theory. It would also be much more benefiical in terms of tax dollars saved.

Seven Machos said...

Ben -- Again, you don't understand how government works. The department did not fire the guy. The University did not fire the guy. The University is beholden to the legislature for money. Now, certain members of the legislature are going to try to take money from the University as a result of this decision, which the University is free to change at any time.

If the legislature wants to push for more firings, it is free to do so.

Your point seems to be that since people beholden to the legislature for money made a decision the legislature doesn't like, the legislature shouldn't do anything. What kind of power is that?

Again, Ben, welcome to democratic politics. It will be a difficult adjustment for you, but it really is better than authoritarian alternatives.

The Drill SGT said...

Ben and 7M,

to carry on with 7M's example, I can fire anybody that works for me if I am willing to pay the cost of unhappy customers. I don't. I try to make logical efficent choices about who improves my customer satisfaction, what their cost is, what their potential is and what the short and long term advantages and disadvantges of firing and firing. In short, I'm an econmic decison maker.

I can fire any 1 black, woman, (man if I was the Director of Nursing at the local hospital), etc. If I fire too many folks of a particular class, then somebody might say I had a problem and I would have a law suit or most likely I'd be fired, before that point by MY BOSS, who doubted my judgement.

7M's point is that it's only in the public sector that there are these huge rule sets on who gets hired and who gets fired, and its precisely in the public sector, where there is the biggest disconnect between an employee's performance and their getting hired or fired. Some of us think that there are casual relationships, of thers think it's just random coincidence.

The Drill SGT said...

make that causal

J said...

"We can not view his teaching his ideas in a class as any sort of "debate" or "discussion" precisely because students are not equals in rank, stature, or knowledge. Why is everyone who's saying Barrett should teach that syllabus not acknowledging this?"

Tibore, take a look at the article quoted in the first link. This guy has already made claims "supporting" this theory he intends to teach that any engineering or architecture student at UW could tell him were crap, and why. Because they know far more about the subject. Are you serious in saying that a student can't call a professor on it when the prof veers off subject into an area they know nothing about? The fact that a prof has vast knowledge in one area doesn't make them experts in everything (or, frankly, anything) else.

SippicanCottage said...
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SippicanCottage said...
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chuck b. said...

My best fantasy response to this freakshow would be for an assemblage of UW's best and brightest faculty and grad student cohort to stage a narrowly-focused teach-in outside this loser's classroom. Really. Intelligent people doing the right thing (for a change); what inspiring activism that would be.

ben wallace said...

Drill Sg. and 7M: I agree that the state should consider how to increase the efficiency of the university. In evaluating the private sector, I would take any situation where the firm chooses to hire an fire workers over a situation with a union deciding employment. In the public sector, I also agree that there is a lot of inefficiency created by the academic freedom institution. Academic freedom is analytically similar to a labor union. The problem with universities is that the choice is between inefficient politicians who do not operate on the profit motive and public universities that do not operate on the profit motive. We choose between an imperfect tenure system and imperfect regulation by politicians. I would choose regulation by the university because they have incentives to increase student enrollment, while politicians do not necessarily have incentives to keep student enrollment high. Given the choice between imperfect alternatives, I think the academic freedom route has more net benefits than a system where the mechanism of control is politicians who cannot reasobably be construed as choosing politicies based on economic efficiency.

PatCA said...

"...social inquiries into 9/11." What kind of doublespeak is that? You mean "blaming the current administration" for 9/11? That conspiracy theory still has nothing to do with Islam, except that it resembles rumors that seem to be prevalent in the Arab world.

And a politician is not firing him--the people are demanding a politician fire him because the provost won't.

chuck b. said...

PS I don't blog seriously, but I feel strongly tempted to fabricate 100 entries about "plasticinated clitoris" on my own blog.

Just getting one hit from that would really make my day.

Tibore said...

J, I'm saying that a student is put into a pretty poor position to challenge his/her instructor in situations like this. I know expertise in one area doesn't make for expertise in another, but that wasn't my point. My point was that a student calling his or her instructor out on a point of disagreement endangers the student's grades, whether the student knows more than the instructor or not. In most cases that wouldn't happen, that's true, because a very large majority of educators are responsible people who respect the give and take, but the point is that a student shouldn't be put in the position where disagreement with the core of an instructors alternate belief system risks that student's grades. And that's exactly the danger that occurs in a situation like this. Many workplace environments have rules against supervisors dating subordinates for precisely the same reason: The relationship in the work environment isn't equal, yet a romantic relationship requires equality to deal with differences. A supervisor dating a subordinate runs the risk of adverse consequences for the subordinate in the workplace if there's a problem outside of it. The relationship between a student and instructor isn't equal either, yet equality is necessary for someone to disagree with the instructor's material and guarantee that the disagreement wouldn't result in adverse consequences.

I know any architectural or structural engineering student could call the instructor out on his theories. My point is, are they willing to risk their grades to do so? And should they have been put in that position to begin with?

Danny said...

1. Barrett is on a one course contract. UW-Madison is a reputable institution of higher learning but it is a state school nonetheless, and it doesn't have the prestige or financial resources to attract well-published tenured professors in all departments.

2. His hiring committee was not aware of his 9-11 theory (I'm assuming this based on the Provost's statement).

3. He has the basic credentials required to teach the course at UW-Madison (PhD in African Literature/Culture, Fluent in Arabic, Teaching experience). In addition, his students from past courses have given him good evaluations indicating he is capable of teaching.

4. To fire him would most likely leave the university without a survey of Islam class for the fall semester.

Considering these four points (which don't even touch upon academic freedom), Barrett cannot simply be fired. Believe it or not, UW does have a system of checks and balances for it's hiring process which maintains a high standard for course instruction. Kevin Barrett made it past the first check: the initial hiring of an instructor (which surely includes interviews, talking to references, and an overview of the CV), which could attribute to an incompetent LCA dept or perhaps Kevin simply wasn't as crazy then as he is now. Either way, it doesn't matter because Barrett will soon face another checking measure at the end of the semester: whether the university will renew his contract. Considering his complete lack of maturity recently, I doubt Kevin will be asked to return.

ben wallace said...

SC: To be honest, I think that I actually hate Kevin Barrett for the reasons you describe. I spend a lot of time with Don Downs, who defended Barrett's academic freedom. Downs defended Barrett after much soul searching, and afterward Barrett challenged Downs on the facts of the conspiracy and called him a coward. Downs then again wrote in his defense based on academic freedom. I told Downs it was the right thing even thought we both think Barrett is reprehensible.

The academic freedom defense recognizes that Barrett is an idiot but that he should not be fired based on the facts he presented to the university about his teaching plan and his past course performance. Believe me, if he deviates from that mantra this semester, I will be one of the first to call for his immediate dismissal as a violation of the faculty code of conduct. But until he does that, he should not be fired even if he is a disrespectful piece of crap.

The Drill SGT said...

I could see a useful class on conspiracy theorybeing taught at UW, but it would be in the psych dept, not a religion and language department.

mass psychosis
How conspiracies get started, how they spread,
what sorts of wacko's believe them
what satisfaction do they provide
how can they be rooted out, or not
what harm do they cause and a personal and a societal level
how to recognize a true believer versus a scam artist.

Jonestown, a case study

Seven Machos said...

Ben -- You are saying the same thing you always say: that eggheads and judges should decide and that legislators and the little people should have no say whatsoever.

Tibore said...

Ben Wallace,

Thanks for your thoughtful reply to my post earlier. I do agree with you that the solution to this shouldn't be implemented by politicians; I agree with you 100% on that. Just so it's clear to anyone else reading this (I'm sure you got it already, Ben), my criticism is aimed at that department's leadership, and the position they've put their students in.

ben wallace said...

patca: If Nass gets his bill to fire Barrett signed, I would agree that the legislature has spoken clearly on the issue and that Barrett should be reconsidered. Until then, there is no reason to believe the political process has fully resolved this issue.

ben wallace said...

Machos: See my last post. I don't think politicians should not decide, I just think that they should actually go through the right process before they decide to make sure we know what the legislators prefer.

The Drill SGT said...

Danny,

The facts as I understand them, and perhaps Ben knows more are that:

1. Barrett got his PhD in Islamic studies from this UW campus, working along side those LCA profs.

2. He was a TA under the normal LCA 370 instructor

3. He is a long time Madison resident and Islam convert

4. Based on what you have seen and heard Barrett say in the past week, do you think it is possible that professors in Mid Eastern studies who interacted with Barrett over multiple years, given Barrett's proclivity for loud and crazy talk, these professors didn't know exactly what they were getting?

ben wallace said...

Tibore, I would be right with you in signing a petition condemning the department that hired this knot-head! They truly did a disservice to their students by failing to take the necessary steps to find the best lecturer available for this course.

SippicanCottage said...
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Danny said...

I would like to add that one of the most important lessons I've learned at UW-Madison (that I don't think I would've fully processed at an Ivy League) is that sometimes older people with fancier titles and longer resumes are completely full of shit. During my three years of college, I've had more than a few professors/instructors/TAs who make stuff up, stifle others' opinions, try to indoctrinate their students, and generally waste my time. I rarely align with Sippican but it is extremely vital to understand that one should never accept the ideas and opinions from a person simply because they have a PhD. I am going to graduate and enter the real world with a vital skill that can't go on a resume: a keen ability to create and detect bullshit.

ben wallace said...

SC: comparing the difficulty faced by a rape victim talking about his or her experience to the difficulty faced by a student criticizing the theories of a lecturer is Barrett-esque.

Elizabeth said...

ben, when did I say Ed Miller isn't free to write on any topic he wants? He probably publishes on economics as much as any tenured professor ought, but his publishing on race and intelligence, and more recently on homosexuality, is pseudo-science clothed in economics and statistics, and not going to be found in well-regarded, peer-reviewed journals of any discipline. If the price he pays for his writings is a lack of respect from his academic peers, that's the way things pan out.

SippicanCottage said...
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Elizabeth said...

Sippican, we are in agreement on the ridiculousness of Barrett's beliefs. But Hannity's interview isn't much as an example of what students might experience. Hannity bullies guests he doesn't agree with for a living. He didn't pose a single coherant thought other than to call Barrett a wacko, and to repeat himself over and over. I have no problem with any guest that talks over the Hannitys and O-Reillys; those news talk shows aren't designed to give guests a hearing; they're made to produce bites and out-of-context blurbs. Barrett beat Hannity at his game.

That doesn't mean he said anything worth hearing.

ben wallace said...

Elizabeth: Your tone suggested that the university would be better off without edward miller, and that you support his exit if he did not have tenure. I just pointed out that both Barrett and Miller should be supported by the principles of academic freedom because both would be subject to political disapproval.

On another note, I was sitting here watching Braveheart for about 15 minutes when I began to wonder where Braveheart was and why they weren't speaking english. I then realized it was passion of the christ. I thought that was even funnier than any of the 9/11 conspiracy theories. they should have called the movie the Braveheart: Jesus Edition.

The Drill SGT said...

Eliz, I think Sip's point is that we can visualize a lecture class.

Barrett talking about Thermate bombs,

a Sophomore engr stands up and says, "Professor, that theory is full of holes, first of all the load was carried on the external walls. there was no get forest of internal pilings. Your controlled demo would have had to have been laid on multiple floors in hundreds of offices that faced out on windows. All those offices were occupied. Nobody saw thousands of pounds of demo carried into the building, laid out in, holes cut in dry wall to get to next to I Beams, and oh BTW: who were the 19 guys with box cutters that the passengers reported on multiple planes? CIA agents?

I think that Barrett would do what he did to Hannity. Talk fast, blow the kid away and if the kid persisted, remember who he was and teach him on the next mid term.

Seven Machos said...

Ben -- some friendly advice: I make it a point never to argue with Sippican Cottage. YOu should, too. He/she is good. Really good.

ben wallace said...

Machos, thanks, that sounds like good advice. As for me, I find your arguments as ironclad and difficult to attack as any I've encountered. You are a force!

P. Froward said...

Elizabeth,

I'm not sure that basing a significant unit of instruction on an area outside my expertise, and in the process getting the technical information flat-out wrong, wouldn't have repurcussions for me academically.

Repercussions of some kind, yeah; everything has repercussions of some kind. What bugs me is anything smacking of "zero tolerance" or some such thing.

It's hard for me to pick out who (if anybody) is right on this one.


ben wallace, you say that...

...both Barrett and Miller should be supported by the principles of academic freedom because both would be subject to political disapproval.

So if they were insane in politically neutral ways, you could live without 'em? Not quite sure I follow that.

I don't much care about somebody who keeps his madness out of the classroom, but somebody who puts conspiracy theories about the US government (or is it the Jews?) in the syllabus of a class on Islam has a problem. Why not toss in a week or two on organic gardening? Why not, indeed; Muslims need healthy green vegetables as much as anybody.

What percentage of the course has to be utterly unrelated to the what the course is allegedly about before you admit that something is wrong there? Or if he's "politically unpopular" does that give him carte blanche to do absolutely anything at all?

SippicanCottage said...

Hi Elizabeth- I grow weary of everybody asking you to be the official spokesperson for people you don't know and apologize for them.

Anyway, my point stands about Hannity. Hannity is not in a subordinate position, as the student would likely feel, and is is experienced in verbal disputes, however imperfectly, and had no hope of even posing a question, never mind getting an answer to it. I can't imagine a student doing much better with the guy. Everything in this world is a diving board to dive into a universe-encompassing laundry list of ethereal pseudofacts and accusations with such a person.

What time is it, Mr. Barrett?

You wouldn't ask me what time it was if you knew that molten fires underground prove ninja robots parasail under black helicopter cover from ice caves commanded by vampire john birch clones scheming with the illuminati to put saltpeter in my tunafish and silence me for the ten minutes I'm in the bathroom unable to analyze the sample of drop ceiling shards from the plumber's neighbor's mailman's mother's second cousin's rabbi's estranged brother who drove through Manhattan once while thousands died in this illegal war for oil. And raisins. Don't forget the raisins.

SippicanCottage said...

Ben- "they should have called the movie the Braveheart: Jesus Edition."

Over on Fark they called it "Jesus Chainsaw Massacre."

Heh.

Seven Machos said...

Who is the legislatures of the state of Wisconsin, really, to decide what goes on within the universities it funds? Academic freedom. Right? That's the most important thing.

Also, I teach the occasional test-prep class. Next one, I am going to devote Week Three to my personal theories on the rise of militant Islam. I'm sure the people who pay $1200 for the course and the company that pays me will be totally fine with that.

ben wallace said...

P. Froward: If these ideas are truly insane, then it is hard to explain why a maganize like popular mechanics devoted an issue to refuting insane ideas. Why anyone at popular mechanics bother is these ideas are so obviously worthless?

The relevance issue is more relevant. Barrett views 9/11 as a source of an irresponsible image of Muslims that results in part from how the government accorded blame after 9/11. We both agree this is a stretch but I do not think this warrants firing him. He seems to have good intentions.

ben wallace said...

SC: Now that I've watched some more of it, I agree that it is more like the texas chainsaw massacre movies than braveheart. At least in braveheart they only cut his ass up into pieces in the end, but in the passion of the christ, the gore is gratuitous! And i can't understand the language...

Seven Machos said...

"[I]t is hard to explain why a maganize like Popular Mechanics devoted an issue to refuting insane ideas..." -- Ben Wallace World, Thursday, July 13, 2006.

SippicanCottage said...

Ben-"He seems to have good intentions"

I don't like the sound of those boncentration bamps.

I gave him my baby to kiss, and he bit it on the head.


/python>

Mike said...

I've got to agree with part of what Ben says (at least, what I think he says, I don't want to put words in his mouth). It will be unfortunate if the politicians get involved. Many do not have the best interests of the UW at heart. They will play this to their own, personal advantage. Over the long run, if that becomes the norm, the UW will suffer severely. That is one reason I had hoped the UW administration would do something about this. Not because of political pressure, but in the interest of academic standards.

I will man the ramparts, when required, in the name of academic freedom when and if that time truely comes. But this ain't it.

Mike said...

Oh, my. But I don't agree with Ben re: Barrett's "good intentions".

ben wallace said...

All right Macho, you made your point. Mike, you also made your point. The provost should have fired Barrett based on a perceived inability to evaluate evidence and we should all have saved the defense of good principles for someone who actually has a worthwhile idea. But now that he has made his decision, I would not support the effort of Nass to cut the budget.

ben wallace said...

Mike: I would also that while I think Barrett has good intentions, that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Thus, the provost should have stopped Barrett and his good intentions because his means are so far removed from the end he seeks.

Mike said...

Well, if Nass wants to cut the budget by $8,000 (Barrett's salary), I won't squawk, but I doubt that's what he's got in mind. I haven't seen the specifics.

Seven Machos said...

Firing the provost would be a ballsy, good move. Of course, when alumni stop the donations, he is gone, anyway.

I have to think that this isn't the last we have heard of this story. The Ward Churchill thing seemed to go on for eight years, though it finally had a good and proper outcome.

One thing I will add: as much as I am for legislators legislating, we do have to keep the passions of the people in check, The passing of time tends to stem those passions.

J said...

SippicanCottage said...
"j- you are arguing that it doesn't matter that your teachers are incompetent"

I don't question Barrett's ability to teach me about Islam. I do think he's probably incompetent to teach structural engineering or chemistry and should probably avoid those subjects in a class on Islam.

Tibore - I recognize that a professor has the power of grading, and anyone who thinks he's a lunatic but needs the credits will most likely just parrot the guy's views for the test then move on (I've done that). It's up to the student to assess an instructor's ability to deal with counter argument. The university should be hiring instructors who can (and firing those who can't).

Gordon N. Trenchard said...

Great news: the university of Wisconsin has decided to do something good for a change. It has opened a religiously themed dorm on campus. To see the links to the articles come to my blog.

Danny said...

In your not-so-subtle attempt to advertise your own crappy blog you forgot to mention that the Pres house is an off-campus project in which the University has no role.

PatCA said...

Ben,
You keep introducing new rationale for keeping Barrett--every time somebody pokes holes in a prior argument--while ignoring arguments you can't answer. Now we are down to "he means well," although his website says he means to turn 9/11 against America and usher in a new age of aquarius.

A professor should teach, not present pet political conspiracy theories, with the onus on the student to prove him wrong. As in every power relationship, the person with authority or power has a duty not to abuse his or her power.

Truth matters.

Mike,
UW has already sustained damage to its reputation by hiring and supporting this guy.

Elizabeth said...

Sippican, I always appreciate that you see me, not a spokesperson for "my people."

You're right, of course, about Hannity. He's no cringing sophomore, trying to hold onto what he knows to be true against some tinpot dictator in the classroom, but still he couldn't get a word in edgewise.

Barrett might have a different personality in the classroom; I know I do! But with this topic set up to be the big climax of the semester, I doubt he'll do well at being even-handed.

Braveheart: Jesus Edition. hehehehehe.

SippicanCottage said...
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Elizabeth said...

Ben, my point was that the university was right to protect Miller's academic free speech, but that also rightly repudiated his racist blather. And that in taking in that approach, the university made him of little relevance. Had he been fired, he'd have become a cause celebre for his whole idiot contigent. He deliberately waited until he had tenure to start his public assocation with the Human Biodiversity Idiots, uh, Institute.

The difference in Miller and Barrett is that Barrett what Barrett is bringing into this course is outside his realm of academic training and expertise. Miller keeps his "black people have small heads and big genitals so they must be stupid" writing outside of the classroom. If he started working that in to his finance or statistics courses, then I'd want to see the faculty repudiate him and his dean give him the heave-ho.

Elizabeth said...

p., I agree, zero tolerance isn't useful, in any setting. But tenured faculty's academic freedom is going to be tolerated more easily than that of contract workers, which is what the rest of us are. I'm not bothered by faculty creating controversy, but faculty teaching in areas fully outside their expertise lacks credibility. Here, I don't see the relevance to an intro course on Islam, but more so, it's clear that he has no standing to speak to issue of engineering, aeronautics, and explosives. He'll argue that he's relying on sources that do, and there's merit to that.

I don't buy that Barrett is the scapegoat for politically unpopular thinking, anymore that I'd buy that of Holocaust deniers, or Jews secretly run the world theorists. Those theories are simply unpopular, they're factually wrong, and are out there to foment ill will and hatred among us. It's important to understand the thinking of those who hold these ideas, but I can't see that leading to saying it's important to being comfortable letting them instruct in those ideas in our classrooms. At the very least, Barrett ought to be challenged vigorously, in public, by his colleagues.

Elizabeth said...

Those theories are simply unpopular should be Those theories are NOT simply unpopular,.

SippicanCottage said...
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Elizabeth said...

Football allegencies are always up for grabs. Let's hope some LSU Tigers stay in the pipeline to New England so our personal allegiance can continue.

I'm a Saints fan, so I don't get to say much about football. Except that I'm a big Bush fan. Yep: Reggie Bush!

We may be in Boston for a short visit this fall; if I could get in a Pats game, that would be sublime.