Middle East studies in the News
Former Columbia Student: Massad's Bullying, Anti-Israel Stance Led Her To Drop Out
by Alec Magnet
A former Columbia University graduate student, Anat Malkin, is alleging that Joseph Massad, who emerged as a leading subject in the investigation of a series of student complaints at the school, bullied her in class and contributed to a biased, anti-Israel atmosphere that led her to withdraw from her Middle Eastern studies program after two years.
Mr. Massad, an assistant professor of Middle Eastern studies at Columbia, is slated to return from a sabbatical in time for the first day of spring semester classes next Tuesday. He may be reviewed for tenure in the next few years.
Ms. Malkin, who studied at Columbia between 1999 and 2001, described her experience at Columbia in a profile the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz printed last December.
"In one class the lecturer cited an article about how the Israelis were raping Palestinian women in the prisons and then sending them back to the territories. I raised my hand and said that no friend of mine had raped a Palestinian, and he started to shout at me," she said.
Ms. Malkin told The New York Sun in a telephone interview that the lecturer in question was Mr. Massad. She added that Mr. Massad told her that it was "Israeli policy" for soldiers to rape Palestinian women because they knew that when the women returned to the territories, they would be killed.
"In another class he said Israelis sleep very well because they kill Palestinians," she added. "But I never killed anyone."
Ms. Malkin said she detailed her criticisms before the ad hoc grievance committee appointed in December 2004 to investigate the student complaints. Her conversation with the committee lasted more than an hour, she said. "In the end, they said that it was nothing," she said.
Ms. Malkin added that she was "very disappointed" with the results of the committee's investigation. "The administration has to not be afraid. Unless they buy into everything they've been told. I don't see any other explanation," she said.
A veteran First Amendment lawyer who advised the faculty committee, Floyd Abrams, said he thought it did a good and fair job. He said he did not remember Ms. Malkin's complaints. "I must say, I think I would if that had been presented, since there were very few claims of in-class harassment," he said.
Mr. Abrams added that Mr. Massad's return to work is "a matter of course in which he should be treated as any other professor.
"Professors receive sabbaticals and when they're finished with them, they come back and teach," he said, adding that the report did not call for Mr. Massad to be barred from teaching at Columbia.
The report largely cleared the faculty members of misconduct and found no evidence of anti-Semitism, though it did conclude that Mr. Massad's "rhetorical response" to another student's question "exceeded commonly acceptable bounds." It described the exchange as "the most serious incident" reported to the committee.
A spokeswoman for Columbia, Susan Brown, said the university has made substantial changes since the report to prevent the kinds of problems that have been reported from arising in the future.
"We have clarified and strengthened our procedures for adjudicating grievances and established additional venues for students to discuss issues with the University's top administrators, including the new President's Council on Student Affairs," she said via e-mail.
She added that a new program, the Kraft Family Fund for Intercultural and Interfaith Awareness, would encourage "students and faculty to engage in free and open discussion on a wide range of sensitive topics," including "culture and faith."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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