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UWRF receives national online attention after student complaint

April 9, 2009

An entry in a political blog by a UW-River Falls student has called attention to alleged anti-Semitic comments made by professor Kiril Petkov in a session of History 101 on March 13.

The blog displayed a message from senior history major Muriel Montgomery. The class session in question was about the theology of Islam. According to Montgomery’s narrative, Petkov said that Orthodox Jews would throw rotten eggs on people’s cars if they worked on the Sabbath.

Montgomery also said that when Petkov explained an Islamic idea that the real Jesus was never crucified and an imposter died in his place, he said the plan worked “because the Jews are stupid.” Montgomery said the rest of the class laughed upon hearing this although she was appalled, and he told her, “Don’t take this as a slur against the Jewish people. It is part of the Muslim tradition.”

Montgomery also spoke about her evaluation of the lecture in a telephone interview.

“I thought [Petkov] was very outgoing, charismatic and excited about all the topics,Ó Montgomery said. ÒBut it became clearer to me what exactly he was trying to do with the classroom. It seemed like there might be an ulterior agenda. But I don’t have proof.”

Montgomery said a friend persuaded her to e-mail her thoughts to Pamela Geller, who publishes a blog called “Atlas Shrugs.” It focuses on current events in Israel such as the conflict in Gaza, as well as the Islamic world.

“No student should be taught such utter garbage and be forced to sit there and listen to such ignorant racism,” Montgomery wrote in her e-mail to Geller. “Please start writing and calling. If he has tenure, then the kids are screwed, but at least we can shut him up.”

Geller replied by phone, Montgomery said, and published the comments on March 16 under the title “Action Alert: University of Wisconsin’s Jew Hating Professor Kiril Petkov.”

Petkov was contacted by the Voice, but said he preferred not to comment on the issue.

Montgomery attended a meeting with representatives of the history department, including Interim Chair Brian Copp. According to Montgomery, they suggested that her assessment was less than fair and that she may not have taken Petkov’s statements in the right context.

Montgomery said that while she could be a very passionate person, she was standing by her interpretation of the class regardless of the department’s opinion.

“They just tried to wrap their minds around a more innocent view of what happened in the classroom,” Montgomery said. “Which is, to me, sick. A professor has free speech, and I wouldn’t argue against the right. However, they should not be teaching blatant anti-Semitism as though it’s true.”

Copp declined to comment on the issue in detail.

“At this time the issue of the information’s publication on the blog is being investigated. I am not at liberty to discuss any concerns between faculty and students. These issues are confidential,” Copp said in an e-mail. “There has been no official complaint via published University procedures about this issue.”

The Atlas Shrugs blog entry can be found at http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2009/03/university-of-wisconsins-jewhating-professor-kiril-petkov.html.