Middle East studies in the News
STAFF EDITORIAL: Beyond MEALAC
More than five months after the MEALAC controversy began, the faculty committee created to investigate parts of the issue has finally released its report. Though it found no evidence of anti-Semitism in the department, the report accurately characterized Columbia's grievance procedures as inadequate. Regardless of positions on other aspects of the broader controversy, everyone involved in the debate can and should come together to fix these procedures.
It is imperative that the administration make these changes quickly. President Bollinger waited a month before forming the committee. The committee took four months to deliberate. Both inactions created information vacuums, which outside organizations like the David Project and The New York Sun were more than ready to fill. Beginning with this report, Columbia must reclaim control of this issue.
Reforming grievance procedures must be an integral part of this effort. Tension within the MEALAC department, given the current political environment, is probably unavoidable, and students should have somewhere to go with concerns. If Columbia streamlines its process of handling complaints, they will create a more secure academic environment, making it much less likely that students will look to outside groups to voice their concerns.
A strong, effective move is long past due. The committee has outlined five suggestions for improving Columbia's grievance procedures, each of them worth pursuing. The work now falls to Bollinger, who must lead the way in making the committee's recommendations a reality.
For the benefit of the community and their cause, the students involved in the debate need to be willing to put aside some of their concerns. The report was designed to provide suggestions for how to deal with grievances, not investigate every specific charge against the department. Of course, each allegation must be fully examined. But regardless of whether the accusations are true or false, the entire community can benefit from current students' diligent efforts to ensure that the rights of students in the future are never violated.
Columbia must use student input in forming the new grievance procedures, and actively seek to include the many voices of those the old system failed. It is up to students to look beyond their particular concerns and help fix the part of the system that is most clearly broken. They have a right to a venue for expressing dissatisfaction with professors, whatever the department, and should assist in creating it.
Above all, everyone involved needs to shift their focus toward the solution. Columbia cannot act as a world-class university if it cannot even find and fix its internal problems. Those embroiled in the MEALAC controversy can play an important role in fixing Columbia's grievance procedures, and they should start right now.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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