Campus Watch in the Media
Reporting on Professors' Views Fails to Address Controversy
To the Editor:
In recent weeks, Spectator has run articles on two Middle East Studies professors--current Columbia professor Hamid Dabashi and possible hire Rashid Khalidi--who, according to Spectator, are in some sense controversial for their views on the Middle East conflict and other issues ("Middle East Forum's Web Site Lists CU Professors," Oct. 21, 2002; "Offer of Said Chair to Khalidi Draws Fire," Nov. 14, 2002). Yet in both articles, Spectator bizarrely chose not to provide any specific examples of the professors' controversial views or statements. Instead, without any factual context, the articles offered an irrelevant back-and-forth regarding the contours of the professors' right to academic freedom--as though criticism of the professors' scholarship or activism has anything to do with their academic freedom. By omitting concrete information about the professors' behavior, Spectator fails to equip its readers to make judgments about the "controversy" that is at issue here.
These omissions are particularly strange considering that a simple Lexis search reveals numerous examples of these professors' writing, much of which does in fact call into question the professors' judgment and would have provided your reporting with a factual foundation. Take, for example, Khalidi's claim in an April 3 Chicago Tribune article that Israel has used "awful weapons of mass destruction" in Palestinian "cities, villages and refugee camps." Perhaps the problem is that by sharing such specifics with Spectator readers, reporters would give readers the tools to draw conclusions about these professors that are contrary to the reporters' own sympathies.
Eric Epstein, Law '03
Campus Watch contact e-mail: email@example.com