As a guardian of the First Amendment, this newspaper supports the right to free speech and the expression of thoughts.
But the First Amendment isn't an absolute right. Academic freedom works the same way. Academic freedom means teachers can say anything they want but they may be challenged, too.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Provost Patrick Farrell and the Board of Regents defended lecturer Kevin Barrett's right to teach scurrilous theories about Sept. 11. But that isn't the whole definition of academic freedom.
True academic freedom also requires Barrett's colleagues to examine and challenge the points of his theories. Nobody is doing that.
Barrett's UW-Madison colleagues should be questioning the man's research. They should point out errors in his logic. They should show where his research was flawed. Work like that would be the culmination of true academic freedom at UW-Madison.
Educators who stay silent in the face of a controversial lecturer do the process of academic freedom a huge injustice.
Educators who stay quiet are saying by default that Barrett was right.
Until educators speak up, Farrell and the Board of Regents have it wrong. True academic freedom doesn't happen at UW-Madison. That won't happen until Barrett's positions are examined under the light of truth by fellow educators.
Academic freedom requires action. Academic freedom requires educators to challenge preposterous theories.
Academic freedom without challenges isn't academic freedom.
That goes by another phrase.
The silence of the many weakens all arguments that academic freedom is being practiced at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The Final Thought: Academic freedom isn't happening at UW-Madison with regard to controversial lecturer Kevin Barrett.