Middle East studies in the News
Columbia professors cleared of large-scale intimidation
Columbia University's Middle Eastern studies professors did not engage in large-scale intimidation of pro-Israel students, but one angry professor exceeded "commonly accepted bounds" of behavior in the classroom, a long-awaited university report said Thursday.
A five-member panel criticized Joseph Massad, a professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history, for implying that a student should leave his class after she defended Israel's conduct toward Palestinians.
As a result of the report, new procedures will be announced within weeks to address any lapses, said Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger.
"Our grievance procedures are not what they should be, and this goes back many years," Bollinger told The Associated Press. "When we have lapses, we will take them very seriously. This is not something that we will sweep under the rug."
Massad did not immediately return a phone call from the AP. He has repeatedly denied the allegations that he intimidated the student after accusing her of denying that Palestinians are victims of Israeli "atrocities," and the university has taken no action against him.
Bollinger ordered the investigation after a group of students made a video alleging that Middle Eastern studies professors had harassed them. The video was funded by the David Project, a Boston-based pro-Israel group.
The committee, appointed by the university, interviewed students, faculty members, administrators and alumni, and received written statements from others. Some advocates of the students have criticized the committee's makeup, saying it included several faculty members who have expressed anti-Israel views.
Bari Weiss, a 21-year-old student who co-founded the group Columbians for Academic Freedom, questioned the thoroughness of the report, which she said was compiled by a "committee of insiders."
"We are pleased that we were able to drive Columbia University to acknowledge that they had a problem, that professors abused their students and disregarded their rights," Weiss said. "But unfortunately, it is clear that the university cares more about protecting the faculty and its own public image than about its students."
Though the committee did not find further examples of outright student intimidation -- mentioning only two other incidents with no clear-cut conclusions -- it did recommend that the school revamp its grievance process and create a center where students, faculty and administrators could express their concerns "about the quality of their experience at Columbia."
In a statement posted on Columbia's Web site in November, Massad said the student-made video "is the latest salvo in a campaign of intimidation of Jewish and non-Jewish professors who criticize Israel. This witch-hunt aims to stifle pluralism, academic freedom, and the freedom of expression on university campuses in order to ensure that only one opinion is permitted, that of uncritical support for the State of Israel."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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