Middle East studies in the News
Students hit bias report at Columbia
by Rivka Bukowsky
Columbia University students yesterday blasted a report that they said glossed over anti-Israel bias on the school's faculty.
A committee of five faculty members formed nine weeks ago to look into students' complaints released an 18-page report yesterday, which called for "mutual respect" and civility among students and faculty.
Several students said the report, based on more than 100 interviews and written submissions, gave short shrift to what they considered glaring examples of bias by professors in the Middle East studies department.
"I think people generally feel very insulted and disturbed that most of the reports weren't recognized," said sophomore Talya Kahane, 20. "It's unacceptable."
Complaints about Middle East and Asian Language and Cultures Department faculty making anti-Israel comments have drawn outrage outside of the campus, notably from Harvard Law Prof. Alan Dershowitz, and Israeli Consul General Arye Mekel.
The report released yesterday described three incidents that "particularly concerned" the committee.
But the panel only took issue with one episode, a 2002 exchange between student Deena Shanker and Prof. Joseph Massad, in Massad's class on Palestinian and Israeli politics.
Shanker said she asked Massad if it was true that Israel sometimes sends out a warning before bombing certain areas.
Massad allegedly retorted: "If you're going to deny the atrocities being committed against Palestinians, you can get out of my classroom!"
Although Massad denied the exchange, other students corroborated it, the report said.
The incident "exceeded commonly accepted bounds," the committee found.
Columbia President Lee Bollinger called the report a "thoughtful and comprehensive review," and said the university is developing new grievance procedures.
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