Middle East studies in the News
Columbia big vows gripe reform
by Janon Fischer
The president of Columbia University, under fire for alleged anti-Israel bias among the faculty, promised to have a new process for airing student grievances against professors in place by Friday.
Speaking to the Daily News Editorial Board yesterday, Lee Bollinger said the new procedure would lean heavily on professors' involvement, not the administration's.
Bollinger also defended a March 31 report that cleared the school of faculty bullying.
The investigation was prompted by accusations that professors in the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures Department were intimidating pro-Israel students.
The committee found one such incident.
"You know as a faculty member what kind of power you have in the classroom," Bollinger said. "You do not use that podium to push a political agenda."
The establishment of a formal process for airing students' gripes against faculty was one of the report's recommendations.
Acknowledging the tension between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian students, Bollinger said he hoped to return to meaningful discussion on campus.
"I think that one of the things that we have to do, in the university and in America, is debate the actual substance of the issue," he said. "These ideas need to be debated and they need to be responded to."
He promised to bring "people of renown" to the campus, "take highly controversial issues, bring them to Columbia and debate them."
He also noted that the vice president of the graduate school of Arts and Sciences has set up a faculty committee to review the academic standards of the Middle Eastern studies department.
"We are always interested in improving departments," Bollinger said.
Meanwhile, tensions continued on campus.
Last night, nearly 400 people gathered at the Low Library to defend Middle Eastern studies professors and accused the administration of curbing their academic freedom, the student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, reported.
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