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UNH backs prof with controversial views on Sept. 11

AP | September 13 2006

DURHAM, N.H. --A University of New Hampshire professor presents his controversial views on the Sept. 11 attacks responsibly, so they are not grounds for any action against him, the trustees have concluded.

Andy Lietz, chairman of the university system trustees, said a "careful review" of psychology Professor William Woodward found his teaching consistent with accepted standards, "even though he has expressed some ideas that many find objectionable."

Leitz commented in a Sept. 6 letter to a conservative watchdog group, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which had called for an investigation.

Woodward, a tenured professor, belongs to Scholars for 9/11 Truth, whose members believe that Bush administration officials either planned the attacks or knew about them and allowed them to happen in order to get public opinion behind their policies.

Gov. John Lynch called Woodward's beliefs "completely crazy and offensive" and also asked the trustees to investigate.

In July, the council praised the University of Wisconsin for investigating professor Kevin Barrett, who also belongs to Scholars for 9/11 Truth. Barrett kept his job and is teaching a course on Islam this fall.

Last week, Brigham Young University in Utah placed physics professor Steven Jones, another group member, on paid leave while it investigates statements he made about 9/11.

Woodward has said he sometimes expresses his own points of view in class to stimulate debate and teach his students how to think critically.

Anne Neal is president of the Washington-based council.

"We do not actively support professors who teach Holocaust denial or flat Earth," Neal said Tuesday. "And certainly conspiracy theories of this sort should not be viewed any differently."

Lietz said the review included student and peer reviews of Woodward's teaching and a routine post-tenure review of him from 2004.

The council has criticized colleges and universities that it believes have abused the responsibility that it says goes along with academic freedom. In May, it issued a report deploring the proliferation of "politically extreme opinions" on U.S. campuses.

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