Middle East studies in the News
Controversial Columbia Professor Gets Tenure [on Joseph Massad]
by Dana Tyler
He has been a lightning rod for controversy, and now he's been granted tenure, a lifetime appointment, at Columbia University.
That decision – to grant tenure to Middle Eastern professor Joseph Massad – now has some crying foul.
Professor Massad is known for his pro-Palestinian views, and has made sometimes controversial statements about Israel. Massad once said that "the Jews are not a nation. The Jewish state is a racist state that doesn't have a right to exist."
Some Columbia alumni, like Herb London, the head of a conservative think tank, are appalled that Massad would get tenure.
"Clearly, Israel is a legitimate state," London said. "If someone said, 'I want to wipe Italy off the map,' would you invite them to Columbia? It's absurd."
In 2005, Massad was one of several professors investigated by the university for alleged anti-semitism after complaints from pro-Israel Jewish students. A report found "no evidence of any statement made by the faculty that could reasonably be construed as anti-Semitic."
However, the report did single out Massad, saying he "exceeded commonly accepted bounds of behavior" when he became angry at a student he believed was defending Israel's conduct toward Palestinians, a charge he has denied.
This latest controversy comes almost two years after protests erupted on campus after Iranian President Mahmour Ahmadinejad was invited to speak. Columbia alumnus Joy Brighton wonders why the university gives voice to those she calls extremists.
"Whose side is Columbia standing on by giving a platform to extremist views?" she said.
His tenure means Massad will be entitled to remain a perpetual fixture on the campus if he chooses to do so. Despite the uproar, some students at the university support his right to have a say.
"I think if we're talking about free speech, it should be at an institution like Columbia," one student said.
A spokesman for the university said it is long-standing policy not to comment on tenures. Efforts to reach Professor Massad were unsuccessful.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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