August 31, 2006

Academic under fire for 9/11 conspiracy theory

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) - A University of New Hampshire professor
has come under fire from state politicians for teaching his
unconventional view that a U.S. government conspiracy allowed
the September 11, 2001 attacks to occur.

William Woodward, a professor of psychology at the Durham,
New Hampshire, university, belongs to Scholars for 9/11 Truth,
a group which believes it took more than two planes to bring
down the Twin Towers and that an explosive charge in the
building's basement played a role.

But, he said, the theory comes up only once in his class,
to encourage students to think critically.

"What we learn in the mainstream is not the full story,"
Woodward said in an interview. "To label this as extreme is
really a frame that the mainstream media has promulgated to the
exclusion of scientific views."

The hijacked plane attacks killed 2,992 people at New
York's World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

Some state lawmakers, who last year appropriated $61.7
million in funding for the university, said taxpayers shouldn't
have to pay to provide Woodward a platform.

"This kind of nonsense is ridiculous," said State Senate
President Ted Gatsas, a Republican. "He has the ability of free
speech, there's no question, that's what makes this country
great. But ... speaking his free speech in a classroom with the
taxpayers paying for it, I don't think is appropriate."

Gatsas said University officials should consider taking
disciplinary action against Woodward.

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, has called on
the university to look into Woodward's fitness for duty,
according to a spokeswoman.

"The notion that the American government carried out the
9/11 attacks is crazy and offensive," said Lynch spokeswoman
Pamela Walsh.

"That raises questions as to why this person is teaching at
the university system. Academic freedom is important, but in
every profession there should be, there is, a certain level of
professional standards that are expected. And that is certainly
true in academia," Walsh said.

University of New Hampshire Provost Bruce Mallory, in a
letter to Chancellor Steven Reno, said Woodward had only raised
the September 11 issue in the context of his course on
political psychology, which he called "an appropriate venue for
exposing students to conflicting ideas about the American
political context."

Mallory said in the letter, a copy of which was given to
Reuters, that student evaluations and other reviews revealed no
complaints about Woodward's teaching and he was satisfied that
Woodward exercised appropriate restraint and adhered to
professional standards.