Middle East studies in the News
Education Department Dismisses Khalidi
by Lisa Hirshmann
Just hours after The New York Sun published a story saying that Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi was helping lead an in-service course for K-12 teachers, the New York City Department of Education announced last week it would exclude him from the program.
The decision by the Department of Education comes at a time when Middle East studies at Columbia have come under intense scrutiny from outside the University.
On Feb. 15, Sun reporter Julia Levy wrote, "A Columbia University professor who has called Israel a ‘racist' state with an ‘apartheid system,' and who has supported attacks by Palestinian-Arabs on Israelis, is scheduled to lecture a group of New York City public school teachers on how to teach Mideast politics to schoolchildren."
That same day, the Department of Education announced a decision not to include Khalidi in its program, although he had already given one lecture this year. The course began on Feb. 3.
The Department of Education's program, called the N.Y. After-School Professional Development Program, offers numerous in-service courses to teachers and other school personnel. The course in question, entitled "The Middle East: An Overview, History and Culture" is described in the program catalog as "a course of study for K-12 educators providing a basic introduction to the countries and cultures of The Middle East." The course is taught jointly by a number of professors from the Middle East Institute.
Khalidi has participated in the program twice since his appointment as the director of the Institute. Neither instance generated controversy.
The Department of Education released a statement through Chancellor Joel Klein's office citing Khalidi's past statements as cause for the decision. "Rashid Khalidi should not have been included in the program and he won't be participating in the future," said Deputy Press Secretary Keith Kalb.
Klein, who became chancellor in 2002, graduated from Columbia College in 1967.
The University released a statement yesterday questioning the Board's decision to bar Khalidi "because of views he is purported to have expressed."
"Columbia University, through its Middle East Institute, has provided continuing education classes for New York City schoolteachers for a decade," said spokeswoman Susan Brown. "The fact that a respected professor and scholar would be summarily judged and dismissed without consultation or discussion with him or with us is an issue of great concern," she said.
Khalidi, who received his Ph.D. from Oxford University in 1974, taught at the University of Chicago from 1987 to 2003 and served as the director of the Center for International Studies. He was a highly prized faculty recruit before agreeing to move to Columbia in 2002.
But despite his reputation as a preeminent scholar, his views on the history and politics of the Middle East have often created controversy among groups such as the watchdog Campus Watch.
When Khalidi was offered the Edward Said chair in Middle Eastern Studies in 2002, Daniel Pipes criticized him for holding "extreme and unhealthy views."
"The university is one of the only places in our society that is constructed with these kind of clashes of ideas at the center of its discourse—even though they may cause hurt and hostility," Jonathan Cole, Columbia's former provost, said in a Dec. 2002 speech in defense of Columbia's offer to Khalidi.
"One of the functions of a university is to teach its students the value of tolerating sharply divergent points of view—a lesson that cannot be learned if differences of opinion are not permitted to coexist," Cole said.
In an e-mail to Spectator on Monday, Khalidi said, "Regarding the Board of Education, I am currently disinclined to comment, but may be obliged to do so in the future."
In an interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, Khalidi criticized The Sun for its attacks on individual Columbia professors and the University's work in Arab studies.
"I think there's a broad attack on professors of the Middle East, and it's based on calumnies, innuendo, and taking situations out of context," he said.
While Khalidi was not mentioned in Columbia Unbecoming, and no students have come forth with allegations of academic intimidation against him, his name has been associated with the current controversy surrounding the Department of Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures, of which he is not a part.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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