Middle East studies in the News
Background and Analysis of the Columbia University Administration's Response to Columbia Unbecoming
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS OF THE COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY ADMINISTRATION'S RESPONSE
The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
The film Columbia Unbecoming charges members of the faculty and administration of Columbia University with:
These charges and many specific incidents had been reported, repeatedly, in the prior 3 years, to top university administrators, including the Vice President of the Arts and Sciences, the Provost, and the President. The charges had also been described and debated in the daily Columbia Spectator. The report that follows describes both the conditions that led to the making of the documentary and the university's response to the above charges, during the past three years.
In spring 2004, long before the documentary was completed, but under pressure from alumni and donors, President Lee Bollinger appointed a faculty committee to investigate earlier charges but not to issue a formal report. Last May, he declared that the committee "had not found any claims of bias or intimidation." However, in December, in response to the outcry that followed the documentary's release, Bollinger called on a second faculty committee to investigate the charges.
The new committee reports to Nicholas Dirks, the recently appointed Vice President of Arts and Sciences. Dirks is married to a faculty member in the Department of Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC), the department most frequently accused of bias and intimidation. In 2002, when he chaired the Department of Anthropology, he and 19 colleagues in that department initiated a petition calling on Columbia to divest itself from companies conducting business with Israel. Bollinger denounced the petition as "grotesque and offensive." However, Dirks, his wife, and two members of the new faculty committee, Jean Howard and Farah Jasmine Griffin, were among the 106 faculty members who signed it. Lisa Anderson was the dissertation sponsor of Joseph Massad, the faculty member most frequently named in the film and other incident reports. She has publicly stated that faculty members should have complete freedom to determine what they teach. Mark Mazower has publicly compared Israel to Nazi Germany. The remaining committee member, Ira Katznelson, has no glaring conflicts of interest but, as interim Vice President for Arts and Sciences in 2002-04, took no action regarding the many incidents reported to him and subsequently described in the film.
The incidents in the film are the tip of a rather large iceberg. Many students who chose not to appear in the film have privately reported experiences similar to or more serious than those described in the film. Several faculty and former faculty members also have incidents to report but have refused to appear in the film or to file formal complaints because of fears for their careers. The committee appointments have further discouraged those who have not had the courage to speak out before. The composition of the committee appears designed to thwart both a serious investigation and any remediation of the problems that led to its creation.
Table of Contents
Executive Summary 2
The purpose of this narrative is to provide a context for the response of the Columbia University administration to charges publicized by the documentary film Columbia Unbecoming, produced by LionPAC, the Columbia student chapter of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and The David Project, a Boston-based organization dedicated to promoting a fair and balanced understanding of the Middle East conflict.
Columbia University, as its website (www.columbia.edu) proudly declares:
was founded in 1754 as King's College by royal charter of King George II of England. It is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York and the fifth oldest in the United States.
Like other Ivy League institutions, Columbia has a history of restricting Jewish student admissions and faculty hiring (using quotas).1 Today the percentage of Columbia's students and faculty who are Jewish is probably comparable to that of other highly selective American universities. Although located in a city with the largest Jewish population in the world, Columbia does not particularly try to accommodate its Jews (e.g., Columbia does not avoid scheduling exams and key meetings on major Jewish holidays). Neither, in general, do the other Ivy League schools.
The Legacy of Edward Said
For many years, one of Columbia's most famous professors was the late Edward W. Said (1935-2003), University Professor of English and Comparative Literature. From his office in the Heyman Center for the Humanities, he issued numerous publications that had an enormous influence on contemporary scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. He was president of the Modern Language Association in 1999-2001. Said had spent his childhood in Egypt but identified himself as a Palestinian. In the early 1990s, he was a member of the Palestine National Council, but he resigned in protest against the Oslo accords, whose recognition of Israel as a Jewish state he vehemently opposed. He was the foremost representative of the post-structuralist or post-modernist left, and the most articulate and visible advocate of the Palestinian cause in the United States. Among academics, he popularized the view that industrialized nations, especially the United States and Israel, are inherently imperialistic, incapable of understanding other cultures, and uniquely responsible for the ills of both developing nations and their own domestic poor. His most influential book Orientalism (1978) expresses these views. Said's influence may have helped to make Columbia a place where blatant and irrational anti-Israel sentiment could flourish and be taken for granted.
According to the Columbia website, the two top executive officers of the university are the president and the provost. The incumbents are relatively new to these positions.
President. Lee C. Bollinger became president of Columbia University on June 1, 2002. He graduated from from Columbia Law School. His primary scholarly interests have been free speech and First Amendment issues, and he has published numerous books, articles, and essays in scholarly journals on these and other topics.
Provost. Alan Brinkley became Provost and Dean of the Faculty on July 1, 2003. As such he is the Chief Academic Officer of the University. He is also the Allan Nevins Professor of History and a former chair of the Department of History.
Vice President for Arts and Sciences. The Columbia Administration web page does not mention the (this) position, but it may be as important as that of Provost. The Vice President for Arts and Sciences is responsible for overseeing 29 departments of instruction in the humanities and physical and social sciences, and the faculty of Columbia College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the School of International and Public Affairs, the School of General Studies, the School of Continuing Education, and the School of the Arts, in short, the entire university, except for the professional schools. All the reports of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bias and intimidation of students involve faculty in the Arts and Sciences.
The position had been vacant in 2003-04. During that period, Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History, served as interim vice president for Arts and Sciences. In both spring 2003 and spring 2004, an official search committee presented Bollinger with a short list of candidates. Bollinger expressed a strong preference for a woman scientist to complement the Provost, a male historian. However, on September 1, 2004, after rejecting, for the second time in a row, all of the search committee's short list of candidates, he announced his choice, Nicholas Dirks, as the new vice president for Arts and Sciences.
Dirks was chair of the Department of Anthropology and the Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and History, positions he had held since coming to Columbia in 1997. (Professor) Dirks has been a frequent public opponent of the scientific method in the social sciences; he also played an important role in the anti-Israel divestment campaign (see below). His wife Janaki Bahkle is an assistant professor of Modern South Asian History in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC). She received her PhD in history at Columbia.
A new position that also bears mentioning is:
Vice Provost for Diversity Initiatives. In early 2004, charges of racism from and on behalf of black students led to the creation of this new position. On September 22, 2004, Bollinger appointed Jean Howard, William E. Ransford Professor of English, to this post and issued a press release with one other faculty member's description of her credentials:
Farah Jasmine Griffin, professor of English and Comparative Literature and director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies, said, "Given her knowledge of Columbia, her administrative brilliance and long-standing commitment to building a diverse faculty, I am convinced that Jean Howard is the best person for this very important job. Her leadership in this area will contribute a great deal to this great institution by helping to assure its status as an excellent 21st-century university."
The Divestment Campaign
In October 2002, a group of faculty announced a Columbia University Divestment Campaign, justified by the alleged "brutality of Israeli military rule over Palestinians in the West Bank"2. One hundred six Columbia faculty members, 376 students, and 467 others signed the web-based and widely publicized petition to the Trustees. The departments most heavily represented among the signers were Anthropology (21), MEALAC (12), and English and Comparative Literature (9). (Among the Anthropology signers was Professor Nicholas De Genova , who subsequently received nationwide publicity by calling for "a million Mogadishus," in a teach-in against the war in Iraq; Provost Brinkley and future Vice President of the Arts and Sciences Dirks were also among the principal speakers.) Two complete signature lists, one dated 11/6/02 and the most recently updated list, dated 2/17/03, appear in Appendix A. Nicholas Dirks's name appears in the first list but, inexplicably, not the second. Both lists include Jean Howard, Janaki Bakhle and Farah Jasmine Griffin, as well as Edward Said.
In response to the divestment campaign and petition, Rabbi Charles Sheer, then director of Columbia/Barnard Hillel, along with a group of students and faculty, launched an anti-divestment campaign and petition, also web-based. For several weeks, Bollinger abstained from any comments regarding the divestment issue. However, when more than 32,000 individuals, including more than 360 faculty, signed the anti-divestment petition, and their offices were staggering under an avalanche of emails and phone calls, Bollinger and Barnard President Judith Shapiro issued coordinated statements condemning the divestment petitions, as Harvard President Lawrence Summers and other university presidents had done before. Bollinger's statement was unequivocal, calling the divestment campaign both offensive and grotesque, and the petition was rejected. (The petition announcements and Bollinger's and Shapiro's letters appear in Appendix A.)
The Israel Forum
Provost Brinkley did not sign the divestment petition, but the Provost's Office is a sponsor of a group called the Israel Forum, which holds public events in which academics, writers, and politicians present their views on Israel-related topics. On April 20, 2004 the Forum held a symposium "Is there a future for the Jewish state?" The starting point of the discussion was NYU Professor Tony Judt's article in the New York Review of Books (October 23, 2003), proclaiming that "the time has come to think the unthinkable" – that:
the two-state solution -- the core of the Oslo process and the present "road map" -- is probably already doomed. . . . The true alternative facing the Middle East in coming years will be between an ethnically cleansed Greater Israel and a single, integrated, binational state of Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians.
Although, by his own admission, not an expert on the Middle East, Brinkley was one of three co-panelists with Judt, and read from prepared remarks3:
I am very grateful to Tony Judt for his courageous and brilliant intervention in the international debate . . . I have sympathy for the argument brought forward by Tony Judt, which in many ways mirrors the arguments Edward Said made in his later years. The present governments of both Israel and the United States have made it very difficult to imagine how we can achieve peace in the Middle East under any of the plans and road maps we have envisioned in the past.4
The Edward Said chair
In November 2002, at the same time that the divestment debate was raging, Columbia announced that it was offering the newly endowed Edward Said chair in Middle Eastern Studies to Rashid Khalidi, PhD, then director of the University of Chicago's Center for International Studies. Khalidi announced his acceptance of the offer in January 2003. While teaching at Columbia in the 1980s, Khalidi had become friends with Edward Said, and he stated that he had accepted Columbia's offer in part because of that relationship.
In an article published in June 2003 by the American Committee on Jerusalem, an Arab-American group, Khalidi compared Israeli treatment of Palestinian Arabs to the Holocaust. He wrote, "We all feel intensely a sense of urgency about what is happening to our communities in the Middle East and to our communities here, on par with what Jews in America felt in the 1940s…" In the same article, he suggested that Arab-Americans build a memorial to the "Palestinian Nakba [catastrophe] of 1948" modeled after the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. In his writings, Khalidi has also likened the creation of the Israeli state to Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, which killed more than 2,000 Americans.
Khalidi is now the director of the Middle East Institute (MEI), a National Resource Center for the Middle East that receives more than $1 million per year in federal grants for lectures and debates, research, and the provision of information to the public about the Middle East. The MEI is not part of MEALAC. It is housed in the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).
According to Brinkley, the Edward Said chair had been established in 2000 and paid for (approximately$3 million) by anonymous donors. During the months after the offer to Khalidi was announced, questions were repeatedly raised about the sources of funding for the chair. Columbia spokesperson Katie Moore asserted that donors' names were confidential.
Back in 2000, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (~1918-2004) had donated $2.5 million for an endowed professorship in Islamic religious studies at Harvard Divinity School (HDS). From 1971 until his death, Sheik Zayed had been president (repeatedly re-elected by his co-rulers) of the UAE, a union of seven sheikdoms or city-states on the western side of the Persian Gulf. Rachel Fish, then a student at the Harvard Divinity School, publicized the anti-Semitic activities of the UAE's Zayed Center for Coordination and Follow-Up, the official think-tank of the 22-member League of Arab States. After a great deal of adverse publicity, Harvard and the UAE agreed that the gift would be withdrawn. In August 2003, the UAE announced the closing of the Zayed Center.
At Columbia as 2003 wore on, the demands for disclosure of the donor list became more persistent and widespread. It was pointed out that failure to disclose a major donation by a foreign government represents a violation of New York State law. On Friday, March 12, 2004, Columbia's Office of Public Affairs finally released in print (not on its website) the full list of donors:
Yusef Abu Khadra Munib R. Masri
The UAE thus paired its funding of the Harvard chair with a major donation towards the Said chair, one well above the $ 100,000 limit beyond which New York State law mandates disclosure. Unlike Harvard, Columbia tried to keep the source of the funds secret and has refused to return the UAE's gift. Here, for the sake of example, is background information on two other donors:
Munib Masri is an American educated billionaire and the head of the Palestinian Development and Investment Company, or Padico, a Nablus-based holding company. Since 1994, when political control passed from Israel to the Palestinian Authority (PA), Padico has become the biggest and most influential company in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with interests ranging from tourism, real estate, poultry farming, plastics, pharmaceuticals, electronics and communications companies to finance and power generating. One gem is Paltel, the Mideast's first privately owned phone company, which the PA granted a 25-year monopoly concession. Private enterprise and ownership has been banned in most sectors of Palestinian commerce leaving Padico as the main player in a centralization that is part of the corruption in the Palestinian Authority for the benefit of its favored leaders, especially the late Yasser Arafat.
Rita Hauser's law firm was until recently the officially registered lobbyist for the Palestinian Authority.
The Blasi Committee
Reports of anti-Israel bias, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate speech, unbalanced curricula, and incidents of student intimidation and harassment have been known to the Columbia administration for at least the past three years. Some incidents, including some of those reported by students who eventually appeared in the film Columbia Unbecoming, had been reported in the Columbia Spectator, an independent daily student newspaper. Rabbi Sheer had also reported these incidents to Provost Brinkley , to interim Vice President for Arts and Sciences Katznelson and to Dean Lisa Anderson of the School of International Affairs, in face-to-face meetings. Many alumni and parents also voiced their concerns. In spring 2004, in a University Senate meeting, Bollinger announced the appointment of a faculty committee to investigate "whether there is bias in the classroom and what principles we should observe in dealing with such issues." Bollinger noted that in responding to the furor that followed Professor Nicholas DiGenova's public demand for "a million Mogadishus," he had argued that statements made outside the classroom should not affect tenure decisions. However, he said, politicization or intimidation in the classroom is not protected by the principle of academic freedom. He asked the committee to recommend policies.
The committee chair was Vincent A. Blasi (Corliss Lamont Professor of Civil Liberties in the Faculty of Law). The other members of the committee were:
In other words, the committee had representation from various parts of the campus, even though the alleged problems all appeared to be concentrated in Arts and Sciences.
The committee interviewed or received statements from various students regarding the above accusations. Rebecca Israel, a Hillel student leader, read the committee many reports that ultimately found their way in the documentary "Columbia Unbecoming." The committee forwarded this information orally to the President, along with statements by other students who did not feel that they had experienced intimidation in the classroom.
Blasi told the New York Sun that the committee sought to make sure students "have an appropriate opportunity to register complaints when their classes are being taught in a politically charged way [that] they think is inappropriate."
According to one of its members, the committee was explicitly instructed not to submit a written report. Instead, according to Blasi (personal communication):
At the conclusion of our work, our committee had a long informal discussion with President Bollinger at which we individually expressed our views regarding which issues of academic freedom we believe need clarification or articulation in the current environment -- at Columbia specifically but also in the larger community of academia – and what he ought to think and do about those issues. There were some spectacularly inaccurate newspaper accounts that said that we were submitting a formal report and/or conducting some sort of investigation. Neither is true.
On May 7 2004, the Daily News reported that Bollinger answered their question " Has the committee found bias or intimidation?" as follows:
"It was not set up to investigate that, but of course they would talk to people about it. They have said to me they have not found claims of bias or intimidation."
The statement directly contradicts the committee's charter as specified in the University Senate's minutes, as well as the reported findings of the committee itself.
Bollinger then apparently considered the case closed.
The media have reported in detail about the content of the film, and the LionPAC students and Fish are still tweaking it. But it consists almost entirely of students talking about incidents involving hate speech, racist speech, suppression of student expression of opinion in the classroom and in other on-campus settings and a one-sided portrayal of the problems in the Middle East throughout Arts and Sciences at Columbia. The students who produced or appear in the film say that their intent was not to get anyone fired, but simply to report what was happening in classrooms and on campus to Jewish students, especially those studying the Middle East.
Almost all the faculty named in anecdotes reported in the film are members of the Department of Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC), although faculty in other departments are also known to have expressed similar views. The individual specifically mentioned most often is Joseph Massad, an assistant professor, specializing in modern Arabic politics and intellectual history, who is currently up for tenure. Also mentioned are:
In the spring and summer of 2004, LionPAC and the David Project began showing preliminary versions of the film to small audiences. It was the producers' intent not to release the film to the public but to enable the students to convey their experiences to relevant members of the Columbia community. Ira Katznelson, interim Vice President for Arts and Sciences, saw the film and told the students that no action could be taken about the incidents described in the film without a formal complaint.
In the summer of 2004, Elana Jaffe, president of LionPAC, began calling various departments and offices to find out how a student might make such a complaint. She reports that no one seemed to be able to give her a straight answer.
Presumably, an aggrieved student could turn to the relevant department chair. But in the Department of Anthropology, the chair was Nicholas Dirks, a signer and probable instigator of the divestment petition.
In MEALAC, the chair was Hamid Dabashi.
After September 11, Dabashi expressed doubt about bin Ladin's responsibility for the attack and announced that CNN should be held accountable for "war crimes."5 In an op-ed in the the Columbia Spectator, Dabashi denounced Zionism as "a ghastly racist ideology," condemned "the Israeli slaughter of innocent Palestinians in Jenin," and declared that he and his colleagues had "received repeated and unequivocal assurances from our recognized administrators that we have done absolutely nothing wrong in defending the rights of voiceless victims of the massacres in Palestine."6 He also cancelled his classes to attend a pro-Palestinian sit-in. (One irate student, in an Internet posting, pointed out that Columbia students pay $90 per class session.). Dabashi called the university's former Hillel Director, Rabbi Sheer "a lunatic thug" for registering a public complaint. Sheer had discussed with Dean Lisa Anderson of the School of International Affairs student complaints about anti-Israel bias in the MEALAC curriculum. In the March 10, 2003 Spectator, referring to Rabbi Sheer's criticism, Dabashi wrote:
Such malicious misrepresentations of my department are a deliberate attempt at silencing voices of civilized dissent and civil discourse in these extremely troubling times. They have created undue anxiety among our alumni on one hand and on the other unleashed scores of death threats against me personally, and against my colleague Professor Joseph Massad, by lunatic thugs. None of these intimidations will be effective. We will not be silenced.
Students may also bring their concerns to the Dean of Academic Affairs, Kathy Yatrakis. Here are the statements of two students who attempted this channel to register a complaint. (These statements are part of the documentary.)
I went to Dean Yatrakis, together with my friend, who had been in the class with me. The dean asked my friend to wait outside. I pulled out an agenda that I had typed out of exactly what I wanted to discuss with her, what I wanted to convey. She asked me to put my papers away, that she wanted to hear from me. So, we then went on to discuss, and I remember feeling that Dean Yatrakis totally pushed away my feelings . . . from what I had come to discuss, which was the atmosphere that professor Saliba created in class. Instead she tried to put the way I was feeling on me, making it seem that it was something about me that made me feel intimidated. I remember leaving that meeting, I called my father crying. I had never felt that my words had been so manipulated and removed from what I was actually trying to say. My words were just falling on deaf ears that didn't want to hear what I was saying. I just felt there was no one to go to. If I can't speak to a dean at Columbia about this, then whom can I speak to?
Student # 2
So, I went to Dean Yatrakis, thinking that . . . I'd assume a sympathetic ear, but I really went to her, thinking that the way you get things done is by going to an administrator
When I said to her "Dean Yatrakis, I think that what I experienced here was politics inside of a classroom." She said: "Well, aren't you from a very Jewish background? Is it possible that you are mistaking someone else's views for discrimination against your own? Well, I said, "Anything is possible, but I don't think that's what's going on." And it just seemed to me that she had already made up her mind, that what was going on was a case of, you know, I small town girl in a big town college and I felt patronized. . . . made me feel almost silly for complaining, made me feel as though nobody had ever complained to this in a serious way before, or at least when they had complained, she had not taken that too seriously either. And she said, well you know, "I am very close to professor Saliba. He is a really well meaning person, why don't you go talk to him?"
The Documentary Goes Public
Throughout the summer and early fall of 2004, the Columbia Unbecoming team continued to conduct interviews and to edit the film, occasionally showing it as a work in progress to selected individuals. In October 2004, they showed it to Barnard President Judith Shapiro. A few days later, while speaking on a panel along with Fish at a meeting of a Jewish organization in Washington, DC, with news media in attendance, Shapiro revealed the existence of the film and described how much it had disturbed her.
The following weekend, at Duke University, where both the Palestinian Solidarity Movement and students and faculty against terrorism were holding conferences well attended by the news media, the film was also mentioned.
On October 27, in response to intense pressure from the media, LionPAC and the David Project held a press conference and showed the film. That evening, they also showed it at a meeting of the Columbia chapter of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), to an audience of about 40 faculty members. A week later, the film was shown for the first time to a packed audience of 400 students and other members of the Columbia community. An additional 300 were turned away because the auditorium in Lerner Hall could not accommodate them.
The press coverage led Congressman Anthony Weiner to issue a letter highly critical of Columbia, and 30 of the 50 New York City Council members requested an investigation by an independent committee, whose members would be unaffiliated with Columbia. Numerous letters, phone calls, and emails from alumni and trustees succeeded in getting the attention of the Columbia administration.
Bollinger and Brinkley sent out letters and emails expressing their concern and intention to take action (see Appendix B).
On December 9, 2004, Bollinger announced the formation of a new committee assigned to listen to students and to investigate complaints against certain individuals.
Unlike the Blasi committee, the new committee consists entirely of Columbia Arts and Sciences faculty. It will report to Vice President for Arts and Science Nicholas Dirks, and its members are:
Lisa Anderson, Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs
Jean Howard, William E. Ransford Professor of English and Vice Provost for Diversity Initiatives
Farah Jasmine Griffin, Professor of English and Comparative Literature and director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies
Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History
Mark Mazower, Professor of History and program director of the Center for International History
Floyd Abrams, advisor to the committee, Partner, Cahill Gordon & Reindel, and
The following facts appear pertinent:
Lisa Anderson was the dissertation advisor of Joseph Massad, the faculty member who has been most frequently mentioned as having intimidated students and suppressed expression of pro-Israel views in class. Even if otherwise disposed, Dean Anderson will face a virtually insurmountable conflict of interest in reviewing her student and protégé, in particular as he is currently being reviewed for tenure. Scientific journals take pains to ensure that students do not review work of their advisors and vice versa, even though those reviews are conducted in full anonymity. Anderson is also a past president of the Middle East Studies Association, which almost invariably espouses opinions congruent with the above mentioned radical anti-Israel bias7. In a recent forum organized by Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME),8 Anderson stated that faculty members should be free to teach as they choose. She said that students should be responsible for initiating complaints about individual faculty members' teaching, but only if the faculty member failed to teach what was in the syllabus.
Dirks, Howard, and Griffin signed the divestment petition. Dirks's wife is also a MEALAC faculty member.
Mazower has said9:
If Prime Minister Sharon is seriously concerned about anti-Semitism, there is no one better placed than he to do something about it by changing his Government's policies towards the Palestinians.
He has also compared Israel's "occupation" of the "West Bank' to "the Nazis' occupation of Eastern Europe."
Ira Katznelson, avoided acting on the large number of currently debated problems that surfaced during the two years of his tenure as Acting Vice President of Arts and Sciences.
Floyd Abrams is not implicated in this history. He is a highly regarded First Amendment lawyer. But he is not a member of the committee, and the First Amendment is not the primary issue involved in the complaints that have surfaced. Conflating the issues that the committee is assigned to address with academic freedom and the First Amendment may prevent the other issues from being addressed. No one questions the right of faculty members to express their views or to use vitriolic language in their writings and speeches. The actual complaints deal with:
Of Columbia's 3224 full-time faculty members, only 107 (3%) signed the divestment petition. Two signers were subsequently appointed to major administrative positions: Vice President of the Arts and Sciences (Dirks) and Vice Provost for Diversity Affairs (Howard). Two committee members (Howard and Griffin) signed the petition and the committee reports to Dirks. A third member of the committee (Mazower) was not at Columbia in 2002-03 but has made public statementsconsistent with the petition's purpose and anti-Israel bias. Anderson and Dirks have personal relationships that represent significant conflicts of interest. For those reasons alone, they should have recused themselves from the task of evaluating allegations of abuses perpetrated by MEALAC faculty. Anderson and Katznelson have repeatedly implied, by their statements, actions, or lack thereof, as Dean of the School of International Affairs and Acting Vice President of the Arts and Sciences, respectively, that the complaints that the committee is assigned to investigate need not be taken seriously.
None of the committee members is among the 360+ faculty signers of the anti-divestment petition.
If the purpose of the committee is to protect MEALAC faculty, it seems likely to achieve success. If its purpose is to conduct a serious investigation, it appears doomed to failure. The students who appear in the film are not a handful of malcontents unrepresentative of any larger constituency but the brave and assertive tip of a rather large iceberg. Many students who have similar experiences to report have been afraid to come forward. Several current and former faculty members also have incidents to report but have been reluctant to make them public either by appearing in the film or by other means for fear of reprisals that could affect their careers. The committee appointments are unlikely to reassure these colleagues. If no one is willing to speak to the committee, it may then conclude, as Bollinger did last spring, that Columbia has no problem of systematic bias. The composition of the committee appears designed to thwart both a serious investigation of the problems that led to its creation and the development of effective remedies.
Appendix A: Documents related to the Divestment and Anti-divestment Campaigns
Deeply concerned about the brutality of Israeli military rule over Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, a group of Columbia and Barnard faculty have decided that, like our colleagues at Princeton, Harvard, MIT, Tufts, University of California, and the University of Pennsylvania, we should not remain silent.
The decision to launch a divestment campaign comes from our hope that moral pressure from the international community could be an effective means of encouraging political transformation. The anti-Apartheid campaigns of boycott and divestment played a critical role in dismantling the former South African regime. We believe that a similar, if more targeted, strategy of divestment vis-à-vis the Israeli state is called for at this historical juncture. In limiting our divestment campaign to companies that manufacture and sell arms to Israel, we have focused on a fundamental problem in the conflict today: the use of Israeli military force on a civilian population. We are convinced that pursuing a military solution to what is, at heart, a political problem, can only serve to escalate the conflict and create more human suffering for all. We urge members of the Columbia University community to join this campaign by signing the petition.
---Columbia/Barnard Faculty Committee on Divestment
Columbia University Divestment Campaign List of Signatures
(Last Updated: October 31, 2002)
1. Nadia Abu EI-Haj, Anthropology, Barnard
2. Lila Abu-Lughod, Anthropology & Women's Studies, Columbia
3. Domenico Accili, School of Medicine
4. Fida Adely, SIPA, Columbia
5. Qais AI-Awqati, School of Medicine
6. Samir Awad, MEALAC, Columbia
7. J. Bob Alotta, School of the Arts
8. Gil Anidjar, MEALAC, Columbia
9. Zainab Bahrani, Art History & Archaeology, Columbia
10. Ellen Baker, History, Columbia
11. Janaki Bakhle, MEALAC, Columbia
12. Lesley Bartlett, Teachers College
13. Holly Bartling, SIPA, Columbia
14. Elizabeth Bernstein, Sociology, Barnard
15. Akeel Belgrami, Philosophy, Columbia
16. Allen Boozer, SEAS, Columbia
17. Carol Boozer, Medicine, Columbia
18. Lila Braine, Psychology, Emerita, Barnard
19. Taylor Carman, Philosophy, Barnard
20. Elizabeth Castelli, Religion, Barnard
21. Partha Chatterjee, Anthropology, Columbia
22. Elliot Colla, MEALAC, Columbia
23. Elaine Combs-Schilling, Anthropology, Columbia
24. Maryse Conde, French, Columbia
25. Jonathan Crary, Art History, Columbia
26. Hamid Dabashi, MEALAC, Columbia
27. Valentine Daniel, Anthropology, Columbia
28 Nicholas De Genova, Anthropology & Latino/a Studies, Columbia
29. Victoria de Grazia, History, Columbia
30. Nicholas Dirks, Anthropology & History, Columbia
31. Steven Feld, Music, Columbia
32. Joan Ferrante, English & Comparative Literature, Columbia
33. Jerise Fogel, Classics, Columbia
34. Jean Franco, English & Comparative Literature (Emerita), Columbia
35. Coco Fusco, Visual Arts, Columbia
36. Steven Gregory, Anthropology & African-American Studies, Columbia
37. Maria Luisa Gozzi, Italian, Columbia
38. Farah Jasmine Griffin English & Comparative Literature, Columbia
39. Charles Hailey, Physics, Columbia
40. William V. Harris, Classics, Columbia
41. Larry Heur, Psychology, Barnard
42. Clifford Hill, Teachers College
43. Janet Jakobsen, Center for Research on Women, Barnard
44. Jason James, German Studies, Barnard
45. Natalie Kampen, Art History & Women's Studies, Barnard
46. Ousmane Kane, SIPA, Columbia
47. Christina Kiaer, Art History & Archaeology, Columbia
48. Philip Kitcher, Philosophy, Columbia
49. Brian Larkin, Anthropology, Barnard
50. Leslie Lessinger, Chemistry, Barnard
51. Edward Malefakis, History, Columbia
52. Mahmood Mamdani, SIPA & Anthropology, Columbia
51. Gregory Mann, History, Columbia
54. Reinhold Martin, Architecture, Columbia
55. Joseph Massad, MEALAC, Columbia
56. Mary McLeod, Architecture, Columbia
57. Lynn Meskell, Anthropology, Columbia
58. Brinkley Messick, Anthropology, Columbia
59. Nelson Moe, Italian, Barnard
60. Rosalind Morris, Anthropology, Columbia
61. Mira Nair, School of the Arts, Columbia
62. Marc Nichanian, MEALAC, Columbia
63. Roger Normand, SIPA, Columbia
64. Gary Okihiro, Director, Center for the Study of Ethnicity & Race, Columbia
65. Robert O'Meally, English & Comparative Literature, Columbia
66. Neni Panourgia, Anthropology, Columbia
67. John Pemberton, Anthropology, Columbia
68. Richard Pena, Department of the Arts, Columbia
69. Frances Pritchett, MEALAC, Columbia
70. Anupama Rao, History, Barnard
71. Bruce Robbins, English & Comparative Literature, Columbia
72. Carol Rovane, Philosophy, Columbia
73. Thaddeus Russell, History, Columbia
74. Edward Said, University Professor, English & Comparative Literature, Columbia
75. George Saliba, MEALAC, Columbia
76. James Schamus, School of the Arts
77. David Scott, Anthropology, Columbia
78. Lesley Sharp, Anthropology, Barnard
79. Sandhya Shukla, Anthropology & Asian-American Studies, Columbia
80. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, English & Comparative Literature, Columbia
81. Michael Taussig, Anthropology, Columbia
82. Kendall Thomas, Law School, Columbia
83. Charles Tilly, Sociology, Columbia
84. Karen Van Dyke, Classics, Columbia
85. Marc van de Mieroop, MEALAC, Columbia
86. Gauri Viswanathan, English & Comparative Literature, Columbia
87. Gwendolyn Wright, Architecture, Columbia
88. Rebecca Young, Women's Studies, Barnard
Faculty Signatures as of 2/17/03
We members of the Columbia University and Barnard College community, who support the quest for peace in the Middle East, oppose the petition calling for our University to take punitive action against the State of Israel.
We have diverse opinions on how peace in the Middle East can be achieved, and hold widely differing views regarding the policies and actions of Israel, the Palestinians, and the Arab countries. We support the right of all members of the University community to hold and express their different views.
We are unanimous, however, in our condemnation of this petition as a one-sided attempt to punish the State of Israel.
The petition to divest is based upon the allegation that Israel is pursuing a military solution to what is, at heart, a political problem. It singles out "the use of Israeli military force on a civilian population" as "a fundamental problem" in the conflict.
To place all the blame on Israel for the current state of affairs, and to demand unilateral concessions is simply wrong. The petition calls upon Columbia to take action that will deny or withhold from Israel its ability to defend itself, which is a fundamental right and responsibility of every nation.
The petition totally ignores the Palestinian suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. It also completely overlooks the contributions by the Palestinian leadership and the various Arab governments to this conflict, and the many political, regional and historical complexities of the Middle East.
We are appalled that, in response to the tragic situation in the Middle East, our colleagues support such a distorted position that ignores the current and past history of this conflict, and revives rhetoric long discredited by its use among some who deny Israel's right to exist.
Similar divestment campaigns have been waged at other universities and were rejected by each one. In responding, we join distinguished colleagues at Princeton, Harvard, MIT, Tufts, University of California, and the University of Pennsylvania.
Harvard University President Lawrence Summers observed that, "some here at Harvard and some at universities across the country have called for the University to single out Israel among all nations as the lone country where it is inappropriate for any part of the university's endowment to be invested. I hasten to say the University has categorically rejected this suggestion."
We invite you to sign our petition (http://columbiadontdivest.org) , which calls upon the Administration and Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York to reject the call for divestment.
Note: We have linked to this web site various articles that present different rebuttals to the call for divestment.
--Columbia/Barnard Faculty Committee Against Divestment
President Lee Bollinger's Statement on the Divestment Campaign
November 7, 2002
Columbia University Statement on Divestment from Israel
The conflict in the Middle East continues to be the subject of intense and emotional debate around the world and on university campuses. Recently, some Columbia and Barnard faculty formed a committee and launched a petition campaign demanding that Columbia University divest from all companies that produce or sell arms or other military hardware to Israel.
There are procedures established at Columbia for considering proposals of this sort. Anyone can submit a proposal to the University's Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing for resolution.
As President of Columbia, however, I want to state clearly that I will not lend any support to this proposal. The petition alleges human rights abuses and compares Israel to South Africa at the time of apartheid, an analogy I believe is both grotesque and offensive.
It is equally clear to me that a rigorous and open debate about the issues in the Middle East—and, in particular, about the policies of the Israeli government and the Palestinian leadership—is not only appropriate but also essential to life in an academic institution. Every member of our community is free to express his or her opinion or views on all aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or any other issue. Political debate should, and will, flourish at Columbia.
Lee C. Bollinger
4. Letter from Barnard President Judith Shapiro
5. Response of the University's Committee on Socially Responsible Investing
1. From Brinkley
To the Columbia Community,
Over the last several weeks, there have been troubling claims by students and faculty about threats to free expression and civil discourse at Columbia. The film "Columbia Unbecoming", articles in several media outlets, and communications within the University have all raised the question of whether Columbia is adequately protecting the right of members of our community to engage in free and open intellectual discourse in an environment of tolerance and mutual respect. Because we take such concerns very seriously, President Bollinger has asked me to begin a process of evaluating and responding to these claims.
We undertake this task with a firm commitment to the principles of academic freedom that define this University and that President Bollinger has consistently articulated over the last two years. We believe in the right of all members of the community to express their views on any issue, no matter how controversial, without fear of reprisal. We believe that faculty have the right to teach as they wish and to express their views freely as long as they do so with high standards of intellect and in an atmosphere of tolerance and free expression. We also believe that students have a right to learn in an atmosphere that permits an open exchange of ideas. We do not accept efforts to silence or intimidate people with whom we disagree. These are commitments that I believe our community strongly supports; and so when we hear claims that these commitments may not always have been honored, it is our obligation both to determine whether or not the claims are true and, if they are, to take forceful steps to address the problem and to reaffirm our commitment to free expression.
Over the last two weeks, President Bollinger and I have opened conversations with both students and faculty in an effort to gauge how successfully we are promoting the spirit of free inquiry on
our campus. We will continue these efforts by talking to many other individuals and groups, including everyone involved in the recent controversies who is willing to speak with us. We welcome the views of anyone at Columbia who would like to contribute to this conversation -- by e-mail, mail, or, when possible, in person.
The issues that have emerged in recent weeks have arisen out of discussions of the situation in the Middle East, an area that we all recognize has produced deep and bitter divisions and great
passions on all sides. The intensity of feeling on these questions makes it all the more important that we ensure that they are discussed in an atmosphere of civility and mutual respect, and the importance of these questions reinforces our obligation to provide a curriculum of high quality, open to the many different views of students and faculty. We are proud of our tradition of
academic excellence, and we will continue to work to sustain and strengthen the quality and integrity of our academic programs in all areas of study.
I want to emphasize that students who believe that members of the faculty have behaved inappropriately toward them should make use of our formal grievance procedures, which will adjudicate such claims fairly and thoroughly and in complete confidentiality. It is against University policy for faculty members to retaliate against any student who brings a grievance in good faith. Information about our grievance procedures is available at:
http://www.columbia.edu/cu/provost/docs/policies.html. We are currently reviewing these procedures to ensure that they are adequate to the task and we will announce shortly any changes we decide to make to strengthen them.
Our evaluation of all these matters will continue and expand over the next several weeks, and we will report our findings and conclusions to the community before the end of the current
semester. Freedom of thought and expression are the core principles of Columbia University. We will take whatever steps are necessary to uphold these principles and to ensure that
Columbia remains a tolerant and civil community.
2. From Bollinger and Brinkley
December 8, 2004
To the Columbia Community:
Whenever we find ourselves embroiled in conflict and controversy, as we are right now, it is important to begin by recognizing the enormous pride we all take in being part of an institution unmatched in its historical and continuing commitment to the highest standards of intellectual life. An extraordinary and committed faculty and student body are ready to help us confront whatever problems we may face and find constructive solutions.
We have heard a great deal in recent weeks about academic freedom, and I want to say just a few words about that fundamental principle. Academic freedom is at the center of University life. It makes what we do possible and gives what we do meaning. A spirit of free and open inquiry, born of an impulse to know and understand and uninhibited by prejudice and fear of the unknown, is the hallmark of great universities and a direct cause of their success over the centuries. The broad allowance for imaginative freedom is most certainly the source of almost all scholarly creativity and contribution.
In the classroom, students as well as faculty share in the inherent right to explore and to speak to the subject under discussion. I believe it is imperative that we see students as colleagues in the pursuit of knowledge. The University faculty handbook states that "in conducting their classes,
faculty should make every effort to be accurate and should show respect for the rights of others to hold opinions differing from their own." Acts of intimidation or discrimination against students or any other members of our community on the basis of ethnicity, gender, political beliefs, race, religion, or for any other reason are antithetical to University policies and principles and are an affront to our community. I am confident that we all agree that such behavior is inconsistent with our values and must not be tolerated under any circumstances.
For more than a month now, Provost Alan Brinkley and I have been meeting with faculty and students to inform ourselves about student concerns over being intimidated and excluded from participating in some classroom discussions because of their viewpoints. These claims by our own students must be taken very seriously, while recognizing that before any judgment is
reached all sides must be heard. Until we do this, we will find ourselves unable either to protect students from unacceptable intimidation or adequately defend faculty members from unwarranted attacks.
On Monday, I received a letter from the Provost containing his evaluation of the recent controversies and his recommendations. A copy of his letter is included below. Based upon his evaluation and my discussions with him, we believe it is important to respond to students
who feel that they have legitimate grievances about classroom experiences.
Questions of this nature must be dealt with at the faculty, departmental, and school level. In this case, we must turn first to Arts and Sciences and to the Vice President for Arts and Sciences, Nick Dirks. The outcome of extensive and careful discussions is a decision to convene an ad hoc faculty committee to listen to, and when appropriate, investigate student complaints. Arts and Sciences has already conducted a review of its grievance procedures and proposed the creation of a standing faculty committee to respond to future complaints. The ad hoc committee that will be
created will allow us to resolve the current controversies in the period before the formation of the permanent committee. The committee will hear all complaints brought to it, investigate those it thinks require investigation, and deliver a factual report to the Vice President, with copies provided to the Provost and me, for appropriate action. A summary of the committee's report will be made public. The committee will not investigate anyone's political or scholarly beliefs and will not review departments or curricula.
The ad hoc committee is composed of the following members: Lisa Anderson, Dean of the School of International and Public Affairs; Farah Jasmine Griffin, Professor of English and Comparative Literature; Jean Howard, William E. Ransford Professor of English and Vice Provost for Diversity Initiatives; Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science and
History; and Mark Mazower, Professor of History. Floyd Abrams, William J. Brennan Visiting Professor at the School of Journalism, will serve as an advisor to the committee. Floyd is a highly accomplished First Amendment scholar and lawyer and has spent his professional career writing and working on many of the most important First Amendment issues of our times.
We will take the necessary steps to make sure that students and faculty are fully aware of how they can bring information to the committee. We hope that the committee will work quickly. We recognize that the approach of finals and the end of the fall semester will make it very unlikely that the committee will complete its work until the first two months of 2005. It is essential that the committee be given enough time to administer complete and fair reviews.
Let me state again that our commitment to freedom of inquiry lies at the heart of what we are undertaking here. An important part of that commitment requires ensuring that we, as a university, teach and discuss the most controversial topics of our time without chilling discourse in the classroom while preserving an atmosphere of civility, trust, and mutual respect within
the community at large. When - as here - a challenge goes to the heart of what we profess to stand for, we must be ready to make a full accounting of the situation through earnest reflection and self-evaluation and act accordingly to affirm our values and uphold our commitment to the community.
Lee C. Bollinger
December 6, 2004
Dear President Bollinger,
As you know, several weeks ago you asked me to look into the controversy that has arisen around claims by students and faculty of threats to academic freedom and civil discourse on campus. We agreed then that these claims were serious enough to require our attention, and both you and I have spent a considerable portion of our time in recent weeks trying to understand what has happened and how we should respond.
In the course of these efforts, I have met (sometimes alone, sometimes with you) with many groups of students and faculty. We have talked together with students who have complaints about their classroom experiences, including many of those who appeared in the David Project film. I have spoken as well with the heads of the four undergraduate student councils and with other groups of students of very diverse views. We have both heard from and met with many individual students as well. In addition, I have met with several dozen members of the faculty individually, with members of the University Senate, with the Executive Committee of the Arts and Sciences, and with many department chairs. We have both received countless letters, e-mails, and other messages. I cannot claim that these inquiries have given me a complete and reliable picture of these controversial events, but I do believe I understand better than I did what our challenges are and how we might address them.
It is, I believe, important to begin by reaffirming our unequivocal support of the principles of academic freedom that are among the core values of the University and that must be the basis for our response to the present situation. We must continue to protect the right of all members of the
University community to express their views on any issue, no matter how controversial, without fear of reprisal. We must affirm again the right of faculty to teach as they wish and to express their views freely in the classroom as long as they do so with academic integrity and in an atmosphere of tolerance and civility.
We have heard claims in recent weeks that some members of the faculty may have violated their responsibility to treat students with tolerance and respect in the classroom. Those claims are extremely troubling, since the well-being of our students and their ability to learn in an environment of civility and trust is one of the University's most important missions. We need, therefore, to determine if these claims are true, and, if they are, to take steps to address the problem.
Let me summarize, then, the steps I think we need to take in response to the various claims before us and the broader controversy that surrounds them.
Many of us began our consideration of these claims believing that our existing grievance procedures could adequately resolve the questions before us. But those procedures have not proved adequate to this task, for several reasons. First, it is clear to me that the procedures we have are not well enough understood, either by the students who might wish to file complaints
or by the administrators and faculty who might receive them. The result is that students sometimes make complaints to administrators who have no authority to deal with the issues, and those administrators, unable to address the problems themselves, have not known where to send students for help. Much of the frustration that many students feel is, I believe, a result not just of their reaction to experiences in the classroom, but also of their feeling that there is nowhere to go to express their concerns. I believe as well that our existing grievance procedures, even if they were better understood, are not sufficiently robust to deal effectively with controversies of this kind.
My first recommendation, therefore, is that all schools look carefully at their existing grievance procedures (as Arts and Sciences is already doing) and that they make whatever changes may be necessary to allow them to deal effectively with unusual challenges such as those we now face. Identifying the necessary changes should entail consultation with students and faculty, who are the users of and participants in these procedures. I also recommend that schools make a major effort to educate students, faculty, and administrators on what the procedures are and how they can be used, so that in the future students with grievances will feel that they have a place where they can express them.
Evaluating the Current Controversy
Given the inadequacy of our grievance procedures, I believe it is important not only that we work to strengthen them, but also that we move quickly to create a process capable of responding now to current complaints by students in a serious, fair, and comprehensive way. I recommend that the Vice President for Arts and Sciences convene an ad hoc committee, drawn from the
faculty, to hear student complaints and, when appropriate, investigate them. This committee will help us resolve some of our existing grievances while we await the formation of the permanent grievance processes that Arts and Sciences is committed to creating. The committee will hear all issues students and faculty bring before it, but its mandate will not include investigating anyone's political or scholarly beliefs or any departments or curricula.
I have great faith and pride in the quality and integrity of our faculty and our students. I believe that we can rely on our community to respond positively to this controversy - both by protecting our core principles of academic freedom and by assuring that the University is doing everything
possible to make certain that Columbia remains a place in which students and faculty can discuss controversial issues freely and in an atmosphere of tolerance and trust.
1 See, e.g., Steven Steinberg " How Jewish quotas began", Commentary (1971), Vol 52, no.3
2 The petition called on Columbia University "(1) to use its influence--political and financial--to encourage the United States government to suspend its military aid and arms sales to Israel, and (2) to divest from all companies that manufacture arms and other military hardware sold to Israel, as well from companies that sell such arms and military hardware to Israel"
4 For a different perspective on Judt's article , see the New Republic article: http://www.one-state.org/articles/2003/weiseltier.htm , where the author writes: "Judt calls his article "Israel: The Alternative." But let us read strenuously. A bi-national state is not the alternative for Israel. It is the alternative to Israel. Judt and his editors have crossed the line from the criticism of Israel's policy to the criticism of Israel's existence."
5 Quoted by Nat Jacks, "MEALAC Professors Criticize U.S. Policies," Columbia Daily Spectator, Sept. 28, 2001
6 Hamid Dabashi, "The Hallowed Ground of Our Secular Institution," Columbia Daily Spectator, May 3, 2002.
8 Scholars for Peace in the Middle East is an independent, faculty-driven grassroots organization, representing 200 campuses worldwide. Its mission is " to inform, motivate, and encourage faculty to use their academic skills and disciplines on campus, in classrooms, and in academic publications to develop effective responses to the ideological distortions, including anti-semitic and anti-Zionist slanders, that poison debate and work against peace."
9 " The Bollinger Committee", New York Sun, December 10, 2004Note: 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.
Campus Watch contact e-mail: email@example.com