Middle East studies in the News
Massad Wins Promotion at Columbia
by Alec Magnet
A Columbia University professor who emerged as the central figure in a series of student complaints over anti-Israel bias and classroom bullying, Joseph Massad, has been promoted to a position from which he can receive tenure.
Mr. Massad last month returned to Columbia's department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures after a semester-long sabbatical. Last week he was promoted to associate professor from assistant professor, making it possible for him to receive tenure.
According to the Columbia faculty handbook, "associate professors are officers holding the doctorate or its professional equivalent who have a demonstrated record of scholarly and teaching achievement and show great promise of attaining distinction in their fields of specialization. This is the first grade to which appointments are made for full-time service with tenure."
A member of the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures department who is also chairman of Columbia's department of anthropology, Partha Chatterjee, told the Sun that the promotion did not guarantee tenure. He said tenure review entailed a longer and more in depth evaluation of the candidate, and added that Mr. Massad would most likely be considered for tenure in two years.
The New York Sun last month reported that a former student at Columbia, Anat Malkin, said Mr. Massad's statements had led her to drop out of her Middle Eastern studies program after two years. She told the Sun Mr. Massad had said in class that it was Israeli policy to rape Palestinian women and send them back to the territories to be killed. Ms. Malkin, who was born in Israel, said he yelled at her when she objected to his statement.
Ms. Malkin, who studied at Columbia between 1999 and 2001, described her experience of anti-Israel bias at Columbia in a profile the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz printed last December, which did not name Mr. Massad.
Mr. Massad is a critic of Israel, which he has described as an inherently racist state. Complaints that he and other anti-Israel professors intimidated students who disagreed with them led Columbia in December 2004 to appoint an ad hoc grievance committee.
The committee's report, completed on March 28, 2005, largely cleared the professors of misconduct.
The only instance of wrongdoing the committee found was an incident in which Mr. Massad's "rhetorical response" to a student's question "exceeded commonly accepted bounds by conveying that her question merited harsh public criticism."
The report found credible Deena Shanker's testimony that, after she asked Mr. Massad in class whether Israel sometimes gives warning before bombing certain areas, he "blew up, yelling, 'If you're going to deny the atrocities being committed against Palestinians, then you can get out of my classroom.'"
Mr. Massad has denied that the interaction ever took place.
"Clearly not even the little that the ad-hoc committee was willing to admit has had any bearing on the ground at Columbia," a student at the university who brought one of the original complaints, Bari Weiss, said in a telephone interview. "Either the university is irresponsible or Columbia has terrible short-term memory loss."
Mr. Chatterjee said he thought that, on the basis of Mr. Massad's research, it was a good decision to promote him. He said that such a promotion was very common.
A spokeswoman for Columbia, Susan Brown, said the university did not comment on personnel decisions.
More recently, Mr. Massad accused Steven Spielberg's new movie, "Munich," of being anti-Palestinian in a February 3 movie review on Electric Intifada, a Web site that describes itself as "Palestine's weapon of mass instruction."
The death of a Palestinian character in the movie, Ali, confirms, Mr. Massad writes, Munich's view that "the only good Palestinian is a dead Palestinian."
He adds: "As for the rest of the Palestinian people, Munich, like the Israeli authorities, hopes that they stick to making baklava and stop resisting Israeli oppression, resistance which forces Israel to kill them and which in turn forces moral dilemmas on Spielberg, Kushner, and some of Israel's other supporters in the diaspora." Tony Kushner co-wrote the film's screenplay.
Mr. Massad did not return requests for comment.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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