Middle East studies in the News
Students to Protest Inquiry of Faculty
by Jacob Gershman
Dozens of furious Columbia University students agreed last night to wage a campaign of protest against the school's decision to investigate complaints against faculty members accused of intimidating students.
At a gathering on campus that also included some faculty members, students ridiculed Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, for ordering the investigation and pledged to defend faculty members accused of intimidating Jewish and Israeli students.
Some students, many from left-wing campus groups, supported the idea of staging a press conference next week on the steps of Low Memorial Library, the central administration building, to denounce the complaints against the faculty members.
Some suggested passing around a petition in defense of the accused faculty members, while others favored inserting protest leaflets inside Columbia Spectator newspapers, with or without the student newspaper's permission.
One student at the meeting bemoaned what he considered to be the superior organizing abilities of students who have spoken out against the faculty members, while many attacked "the New York press" for its coverage of the issue.
Toward the end of the meeting, one older woman exited while chanting "Zionism equals racism."
Though it appeared that no more than 60 students showed up for last night's meeting, the debate on campus about whether faculty members of the Middle East studies department act inappropriately toward students looks to become more heated.
While the accusations against the faculty members have attracted national attention and widespread press coverage, the campus has not seen any major protests.
Monique Dols, an undergraduate history major who was one of the leaders of the meeting, said, "We would like Bollinger to defend the professors publicly and denounce the so-called investigation." She said she believes a "silent majority" of students at Columbia support the accused faculty members, and she intends to "mobilize that student sentiment."
Columbia's investigation was prompted by the release of a short documentary film, "Columbia Unbecoming," featuring interviews with several current and former students. In one interview, a student claims an assistant professor of modern Arab politics, Joseph Massad, fulminated against a student in his class who defended Israel's military action in the West Bank.
"I will not have anyone sit through this class and deny Israeli atrocities," Mr. Massad is alleged to have said.
One professor who attended last night's gathering, Bruce Robbins, a vocal opponent of Israel, said he did not believe Columbia's administration would threaten his academic freedom.
"I feel my freedom of speech is going to be protected by the university," he said.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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