Middle East studies in the News
More on Fresno State's Edward Said Chair Search [incl. Vida Samiian]
by Steve Lubet
When last we heard from Cal State Fresno, the search for the Edward Said Professorship in Middle East Studies had been canceled for the year, prompting Prof. Vida Samiian to accuse the administration of carrying out "the vicious and discriminatory attacks launched by Israel advocacy groups against the search committee and the four finalists who were of Middle Eastern and Palestinian ethnicity." Samiian backed up her claim with virtually no evidence. She cited three instances in which other faculty had questioned (or perhaps criticized) the search process, none of which came close to a "campaign of harassment and intimidation" as she alleged. Also without evidence, Samiian added, "I am sure the administration, especially the Deans and the Provost, received additional communications against the candidates and the search."
The Fresno State administration has now responded more fully, as reported by Inside Higher Ed:
"In the Edward Said Professorship search, we did not recognize improper search approvals and search committee formation in a timely manner," the university said in a statement. "No department had actually approved the search, and the search committee was not formed by an election of the department members as is required by our policies. We admit we were too slow and should have canceled this search much earlier based on these academic policy violations."
In addition, according to Provost Lynette Zelezny, the university learned that an "unauthorized party was participating in the search committee's deliberations, and that this party was sharing perspectives influencing the committee, again a clear violation of our academic policy." [Samiian suspects that she was herself the alleged "unauthorized party;" see note below.]
Most relevant to Samiian's accusation, Zelezny said that the university had not been pressured, or even contacted, by any outside groups.
As I wrote earlier, Samiian seems to wield Occam's BDS Razor, in which the simplest solution is always to blame "Zionists" for everything that goes wrong. She is also extremely sensitive to any criticism of her views, which she apparently regards as harassment and "attacks on academic freedom, integrity of the search process, and the principles of non-discriminatory practice that we uphold in the academy."
For example, Samiian complained about previous harassment from FresnoZionism, which is the website (now discontinued) of a man named Vic Rosenthal. Take a look at FresnoZionism's posts about Samiian (also here), and I think you will agree that they do not approach harassment, much less intimidation. In contrast, members of Students for Justice in Palestine have actually disrupted Israeli speakers on several campuses of Samiian's university, including San Francisco State and Long Beach State, as well as UC Irvine. The disruptions are actual violations of academic freedom, about which Samiian has evidently said nothing.
In any case, it appears that the search for the Edward Said Professorship, which is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, will be continued next year.
[NOTE: My earlier post mistakenly said that Samiian had resigned from the search committee. In fact, she resigned from the faculty; although she was already emerita, so the effect of her resignation is not clear.]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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