Ole Ned Barnett, the Editorial-Writing-Chief down at the News and Observer, is a fine fellow though like many Editorial-Chiefs he’s a bone deep liberal who frets over the vices of sexism and the virtues of gay rights and seldom finds an encouraging word to say about Republicans.
Which is fine. The N&O’s spending its own money so it can editorialize however it wants. But an op-ed – right next to Ned’s column on sexism the other day – by UNC Professor Neel Ahuja raises a different question.
Professor Ahuja’s an animal rights expert who’s also an English professor who teaches a class on the Literature of 9/11 – and he landed in a mess because a student wrote his course favors terrorists.
To quash that broadside all Professor Ahuja had to do was answer one question: Whether he was teaching his students what the terrorists did on 9/11 was right or wrong?
But instead he waltzed all around the question. He editorialized about applying ‘Holocaust, postcolonial and trauma theories to 9/11’ and about asking whether ‘God’s light guides us or blinds us?’ He denounced the student for a cynical attack on learning and denounced censoring books critical of U.S. ‘overseas military interventions.’ And, of course, he rolled out a harried professor’s tried and true shibboleth: He accused Art Pope and the John Pope Center for running smear campaigns against UNC.
But all that explaining still left an awkward problem: Because, unlike the N&O, Professor Ahuja’s not spending his own or another private citizen’s money – he’s spending taxpayers’ money.
There’s no doubt teaching how different folks – including terrorists – see the same things differently is a fine part of education. And that’s not a problem. But it’s hard to justify spending taxpayers’ money to pay for a course that doesn’t, at the end of the day, conclude the terrorists were dead wrong on 9/11.
And that’s the question Professor Ahuja needs to stop waltzing around. He needs to give a straight answer. And if his answer is, Well, it’s all relative – who was right and who was wrong depends on whose eyes you look at it through – then the Trustees are going to get asked a tough question too: You gave him money to teach what?