Middle East studies in the News
Letters to the Editor [on the situation at Columbia]
Professor Recommends a New Solution to MEALAC Controversy
To the Editor:
Whatever may be said, pro and con, about Middle East Studies and academic freedom at Columbia, the issue is so highly charged politically that it cannot be resolved except by the University Senate, elected to represent the University as a whole—students, faculty, staff, alumni, and administration. I respect the judgment of President Bollinger and the faculty he appointed to address the charges leveled by The David project, and I think the committee's recommendations are fair enough.
At the same time, one cannot simply dismiss the complaints of bias at Columbia as outside interference with the academic freedom and autonomy of the University. A democratic society that supports and protects the intellectual freedom of universities has a right to raise questions about whether an administration has appointed a faculty committee that is unbiased in its judgments of its own colleagues' actions. This might even be said of judgments arrived at by the University Senate, but in that case we have no one to blame but ourselves for electing the wrong people to represent us—always the way with flawed democracy, but something we can learn to live with.
Wm. Theodore de Bary
April 12, 2005
Jacobs' Editorial Displays Contempt for Academic Freedom
To the Editor:
I hope students who read Charles Jacobs' "Becoming Columbia" (April 11) were able to discern, through the fog of his inflammatory tone and willful misrepresentations of fact, the substance of his thesis, namely, that if professors refuse to conform to externally imposed standards of ideological correctness, "the public should intervene." A more exact expression of contempt for academic freedom is hard to imagine.
April 11, 2005
Article Presents an Inaccurate Representation of Academy
To the Editor:
In the April 8th op-ed, "The Hypocrisy of Academic Freedom," Costin Alamariu accuses professor Rashid Khalidi of peddling in political propaganda and claims that professors Joseph Massad and Khalidi are not capable of "disinterested scholarship," but are simply "entrenched activists." Alamariu doesn't explain what good scholarship entails, but reduces Massad's work to subway station stickers. His characterization of two Arab professors as emotional, rhetorical, and propagandistic is the first indication of outright racism. Alamariu then defends the "scholarship" of those who, since the 19th century (not the 1970s, as he suggests), have been attempting to construct biological difference theories between men and women. Alamariu lastly informs the reader that it is not "good scholarship" to linger upon "politically motivated academic fictions like the formation of Palestinian identity." His racist agenda is painfully obvious.
Raja Harb, CC '06
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