Lynch calls teacher's theories crazy as UNH stands behind 9/11 prof
SCOTT BROOKS / Union Leader | August 29 2006
University of New Hampshire administrators are standing behind a tenured professor who has publicly theorized that the U.S. government orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, even as Gov. John Lynch condemned his remarks.
Calling psychology professor William Woodward's theory "completely crazy and offensive," the governor said in a statement yesterday that he plans to address his concerns with the University System of New Hampshire Board of Trustees.
"Although academic freedom is important," the governor said, "if the UNH professor is promoting that view, it reflects a reckless disregard for the true facts and raises questions as to why such a professor would be teaching at the university in the first place."
Woodward is a member of Scholars for 9/11 Truth, an organization that maintains the Bush administration permitted the terrorist attacks to occur, and may even have planned them, so as to rally the public around its policies.
Woodward has discussed the theory in his classroom and has said he hopes to teach a new class that would explore Sept. 11 "in psychological terms."
Andy Lietz, chairman of the system's Board of Trustees, said he asked university administrators to review Woodward's comments in the classroom. He maintained, however, that Woodward may belong to any organization he chooses, and that he may present controversial material so long as he does it responsibly.
"I think he's absolutely wrong, and I'm disappointed that he would have those positions," Lietz said. "But he's an individual, and he has a right to have positions, as you and I have a right to have positions."
In a statement yesterday, the university's interim president, J. Bonnie Newman, said UNH encourages "the open inquiry of ideas."
"For me," Newman said, "there is no doubt that this tragic incident was the result of terrorists who had one objective in mind: to destroy the United States of America, the freedoms we enjoy and the principles that guide our democracy."
However, she said, "Among those principles is freedom of speech."
A similar controversy swirled in Wisconsin earlier this month, when legislators there called on the public university system to fire Professor Kevin Barrett, also a member of Scholars for 9/11 Truth. Barrett retained his job and is teaching a course on Islam this fall.
Scholars for 9/11 Truth claims to have 300 members nationwide. Its founder and co-chairman, retired University of Minnesota-Duluth Professor James H. Fetzer, said about 75 of those members have "academic affiliations."
Woodward's critics, Fetzer said, are "arrogant in their ignorance."
"Of course, all of us have difficulty imagining our government could have attacked our own government," he said. "But do you know there are an awful lot of people who have paid attention to the evidence that are coming around?"
Fetzer's writings dispute the conclusions of the Sept. 11 Commission, whose 2004 report clearly states that the attacks were carried out by Islamic extremists under the leadership of Osama Bin Laden.
Fetzer argues the hijacked planes could not have destroyed the World Trade Center. Among other claims, he says several of the suspected hijackers have turned up "alive and well."
"Virtually every aspect of the government's position on 9/11 is provably false," Fetzer said.
Woodward also is a member of New Hampshire Peace Action and other anti-war organizations. In May, he and five other demonstrators were charged with criminal trespassing during an anti-war protest at U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley's office in Dover.
In an op-ed in Foster's Daily Democrat last month, Woodward accused Israel of committing "atrocities" against the Palestinians and labeled the U.S. as "directly complicit."
"The U.S. should stop support of Israel until it returns its 10,000 kidnapped victims, withdraws from settlements, and pays reparations," Woodward wrote in a piece published July 28.