A student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison tried to make a terrorism class more challenging: He demanded that the word “jihad” be eliminated from it. “A University of Wisconsin student’s Facebook post criticizing a political science class on terrorism Wednesday prompted outcry from hundreds of other students who believed the class promoted a racist and narrowly-defined conception of terrorism,” Parker Schorr reported in The Badger Herald on September 6, 2018. “Ali Khan, the student in the class who posted a photo and critique of the syllabus on Facebook, quickly tallied over 300 likes and dozens of comments and shares from students both from UW and from other institutions across the U.S.”
Khan also questioned the instructor’s credentials. According to the university’s web page on said instructor: “Andrew Kydd received his Ph. D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago in 1996 and taught at the University of California, Riverside and Harvard University before joining the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin in the fall of 2007. His interests center on the game theoretic analysis of international security issues such as proliferation, terrorism, trust and conflict resolution. He has published articles in the American Political Science Review, International Organization, World Politics, and International Security, among other journals.” His Rate My Professor ratings alternately describe him as “knowledgeable,” “informative,” “boring,” and “hard.”
James Strebe reported in the Badger Herald on September 25, 2018 that Khan had dropped the class. Rita Loffredo reported in The College Fix that Khan added Kydd’s address and phone number to his Facebook post.
The course description simply reads “Examines the causes of terrorism, goals and strategies pursued by terrorist groups, the consequences of terrorism, and counterterrorism policies adopted by governments.”
As of now, the course is still listed online on the university web site. Yet and still, academia being what it is, there is always a very real chance that the university will throw the course and the instructor under the bus.
Statements made by a university official when the story first broke in early September leave that possibility wide open. “Our courses tend to incorporate multiple competing perspectives on contentious issues,” UW spokesperson Meredith McGlone stated. “Our instructors don’t expect students to parrot their beliefs; however, they do expect students to engage in a systematic, serious and respectful scholarly conversation with them, with the scholarly literature and with their peers.”
“The connection between Islamic Jihad and terrorism is as obvious as the fact that water is wet,” Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch claims. His author’s page on Encounter Books reveals that “Spencer has led seminars on Islam and jihad for the FBI, the United States Central Command, United States Army Command and General Staff College, the U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group, the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), and the U.S. intelligence community. He has discussed jihad, Islam, and terrorism at a workshop sponsored by the U.S. State Department and the German Foreign Ministry.”