Campus Watch Research
Amiri Baraka Tribute Dinner: Columbia's Middle East Institute Replies
Middle East Institute, Columbia University
Campus Watch introduction:
Campus Watch has received an email from Astrid Benedek, assistant director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, reproduced in its entirety below. She complains that Campus Watch misrepresented the MEI's press release about the MEI having sent out invitations to the Amiri Baraka event. We leave it to the reader to determine whether our press release was inaccurate. We also leave it to the reader to decide whether Ms Benedek's words ("pathetic and despicable") are appropriate for an administrator at Columbia.
As for the MEI course list last fall, Campus Watch is not in the business of providing up-to-date information for students to choose courses from; we are making the public aware of the problems in Middle East studies. As such, we see no reason to update documents. We obtained an early copy of the course listing, and given the controversy surrounding Columbia's Middle East Studies, posted the item without comment on our web site. In itself the list is a small but interesting piece of news; Dr. Benedek's protests – and apparent close monitoring of our web site – give it added importance.
Subject: information about poetry reading and dinner with Amiri Baraka
TO: Campus Watch
In your listing today, you have misrepresented my message to our mailing list. The Middle East Institute was not the host or organizer of this event. We simply forwarded the information about it, as we do with countless other events organized by outside organizations. Nowhere in the description is the Middle East Institute listed as a host/sponsor or in any other way involved. The event was "hosted by the Radius of Arab American Writers, the National Union of Writers, NY, and Alwan for the Arts" as anybody who bothered to read this email could clearly see.
I find it pathetic and despicable that you are so desperate to find our Institute "guilty" of sponsoring something that you consider reprehensible. Why not list the myriad other events we do sponsor, whether it's a lecture about Gertrude Bell this Thursday, a night of Ottoman poetry and music, or a series of films from Israel, Iran or Turkey? All of our events are listed on our website at: http://www.sipa.columbia.edu/REGIONAL/mei/index.shtml#whatsnew.
This is the second time you have misrepresented us. I wrote to you last fall about your listing of our course list, information you took from another forwarded message to our email list. By the time you put this up on your website, the information was out of date. If you think our course list is so news worthy as to deserve a listing on your "Middle East Studies in the News" section, you should have at least linked to our own website where the updated list can be found. As expected, you did not respond to me, nor did you fix the problem. The outdated list remained on your website.
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