In the wake of controversy over a Colorado professor’s views of 9-11, a teacher at the University of Pennsylvania who says the attacks were an “inside job” believes he’s on the verge of losing his job.
Francisco Gil-White, an assistant professor of psychology, also has written articles alleging NATO framed Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic and says the U.S. is a secret enemy of Israel, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
“The academic establishment is there to protect freedom of thought,” Gil-White told the paper. “That is violated when the mere fact that I question the U.S. government becomes a reason to threaten me with the loss of my job.”
The Colorado professor, Ward Churchill, sparked controversy with an essay that describes the thousands of American victims who died in the World Trade Center inferno as “little Eichmanns” who were perpetuating America’s “mighty engine of profit.”
Gil-White objects to being compared to Churchill, and Penn officials insist academic freedom is not an issue in their review of his performance, the Inquirer reported.
“We are baffled by Professor Gil-White’s assertions about the role of his politics in our review,” Penn psychology chair Robert DeRubeis said in a written response.
Last year, the university gave Gil-White a one-year extension on his contract instead of the standard three years because “questions emerged” about the quality of his research and teaching, DeRubeis said.
Officials now are conducting a second review to determine whether to extend his contract again.
Students have signed a petition of support, calling him a “wonderful teacher” with good rapport.
“A lot of people who take his course say it’s the best course of their lives,” said freshman psychology major Michelle Rajunov.
But the Philadelphia paper said Gil-White refused to address the department curriculum committee’s written concerns about his Psychology of Ethnicity course.
Gil-White said the committee had asked him to “radically gut” the class, and he decided instead to teach it his way on a not-for-credit basis.
The Inquirer said Gil-White first began to stake out his controversial positions when, shortly after the 9-11 attacks, he came across a website run by former 1960s activist, Jared Israel, who claims to have “evidence of high-level government complicity on 9-11.”
Gil-White now is deputy editor of the site, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” and has written for it about the war in Yugoslavia, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka.
Along with his controversial writing, Gil-White has alleged that Penn political science professor Ian Lustick, who worked in the State Department 25 years ago, is an agent of U.S. intelligence working to undermine Israel.
But he insists his relationship with colleagues is not an issue.
“My perception is that I was getting along fine with people,” he said.