Middle East studies in the News
Columbia Profs for Truth
by Ryan Sager
Columbia University President Lee Bollinger has an other headache on his hands, The Post has learned.
A group of professors on campus is releasing a report today that is highly critical of the university's handling of charges of anti-Semitism and classroom intimidation — and especially of the committee that Bollinger set up to investigate.
What's more, students who have observed the committee's proceedings are raising their own troubling questions about the direction the inquiry has taken.
"I don't understand why a committee investigating such a sensitive issue would be recruited among people with such blatant conflicts of interest," says Judith Jacobson, an assistant professor of public health and founder of the Columbia chapter of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, the group issuing the report.
As the group's report details, out of five members on Bollinger's committee: two signed an anti-Israel divestment petition, one was the thesis adviser for Joseph Massad (a professor prominently accused of wrongdoing), one has written that Israel is responsible for global anti-Semitism and one is a university administrator who ignored student complaints for months. The man who handpicked the committee, Nick Dirks, is married to a professor who co-teaches a class with Massad.
"If the purpose of the committee is to protect . . . faculty, it seems likely to achieve success," the whistleblowing faculty report concludes. "If its purpose is to conduct a serious investigation, it appears doomed to failure."
That report went out to Columbia's trustees two weeks ago. Having received no response, its authors decided to go public.
If the trustees' interest wasn't piqued before, however, they may want to take another look at how the Bollinger committee is proceeding.
Sophomore Bari Weiss, head of Columbians for Academic Freedom, says committee member Ira Katznelson has made it clear that the panel's report will not be for public consumption. Yesterday, Columbia spokeswoman Katherine Moore said that the internal report will be "full and frank." But only a summary of this report will be made available to the public.
Not confidence inspiring, that.
Weiss, who has accompanied students testifying before the panel, also tells The Post that the committee has shown an inordinate amount of interest in the making of the film "Columbia Unbecoming," which, along with reports in The New York Sun, brought the initial charges of intimidation to light last November.
(Columbia won't comment on the committee's work other than to reaffirm that it considers its composition appropriate.)
In the movie, one Jewish student recounts that a professor of Islamic civilization, George Saliba, told her she had no business questioning him because, "You have no claim to the land of Israel . . . You have green eyes." Another student, an Israeli who had served in the Israel Defense Forces, recounts Massad ranting: "How many Palestinians have you killed?"
The film was created by LionPAC, a pro-Israel student group at Columbia, in cooperation with the David Project, a national group that fights campus anti-Semitism. That's never been a secret, yet it appears the committee may now be looking to portray the film as the work of outside agitators — maybe even, shall we say, a Zionist conspiracy.
All of this makes it clearer than ever that Bollinger either doesn't have a handle on this scandal, or is still looking to cover up the problem rather than confront it.
The issue goes far beyond intimidation of students — and straight to the quality of Columbia's Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures, which is infected with hatred of Israel.
"I would like Bollinger to realize that what's in the film is the tip of the iceberg," says Jacobson. "There is a problem that affects scholarship, that affects hiring and promotion . . . It reflects poorly on Columbia's reputation in the outside world."
These brave professors have now spoken, despite the scorn it may earn them on campus. Other professors, holding their tongues for fear of doing damage to their careers, have an obligation to follow suit.
They have to defend academic freedom and diversity because Bollinger won't.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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