According to a letter posted by the Manhattan Institute's blog, 14 professors are protesting the tenure of MEALAC professor Joseph Massad.
In a note addressed to new University Provost Claude Steele on July 23, the professors wrote "the decision to grant Professor Joseph Massad tenure at Columbia became public as a result of Jacob Gershman's article in the New York Post. What is done is done. However, the process that led to the tenure decision appears to have violated Columbia's procedural rules. That is why we are concerned."
Specifically, they said they were concerned about the rationale for the second round of tenure review granted to Massad, "lack of evidence of substantial scholarly growth," and the duration of Massad as a non-tenured professor.
They concluded by saying, "our impression that procedural irregularities occurred may be incorrect, but correcting that impression requires facts," and asked for the opportunity to meet with Steele.
Steele recently issued a responding letter in which he offers to meet with a delegation of the protesting professors. "I have as much to learn about how we evaluate professors for tenure at Columbia and may want to make some changes," to the current system, he wrote. But he added that regardless of procedural specifics, tenure should not be granted on the basis of "political opinions" or "personal preferences."
Stay tuned for updates.
Full text of letter below:
July 23, 2009
Dr. Claude M. Steele
Provost, Columbia University
205 Low Library
New York, NY 10027
Dear Dr. Steele:
We are looking forward to welcoming you to Columbia in the coming weeks.. However, we are
writing to you now to tell you about recent events that have caused us and many of our
colleagues concern. Obviously, you have no responsibility for the past, but as Provost you will
be responsible for protecting academic integrity.
As you may have heard, a few weeks ago, the decision to grant Professor Joseph Massad tenure
at Columbia became public as a result of Jacob Gershman's article in the New York Post.1 What
is done is done. However, the process that led to the tenure decision appears to have violated
Columbia's procedural rules. That is why we are concerned.
In all academic institutions, meticulous and uncompromising adherence to procedures and rules
governing academic appointments, promotions, and awards of tenure is a sine qua non for
integrity and excellence. We Columbia faculty members take pride in our institution's rigorous
adherence to the rules published in the Faculty Handbook, which is available on line
(http://www.columbia.edu/cu/vpaa/handbook/). Regarding the tenure review process, the
Consideration for tenure begins with an evaluation by the Faculty in which the
officer will serve. If the results of that evaluation are positive, the dean or vice
president submits a nomination to the Provost, who establishes an ad hoc committee
to conduct a second, University-wide review. . . . If the recommendation of the ad
hoc committee is positive and the Provost concurs, or if the Provost decides not to
accept a negative recommendation by the committee, the nomination is forwarded
to the President. Upon approval by the President, the nomination is presented to
the Trustees, who make the final decision on all appointments to tenure.
We are concerned about the following:
1. The rationale for the second review. In early 2007, MEALAC nominated Massad for tenure,
but our understanding2 is that his ad hoc committee did not approve the nomination, and/or
that the Provost Alan Brinkley did not forward it to President Lee Bollinger. In response to an appeal, a second review was conducted. Second reviews are rare; as the Faculty Handbook states (our italics):
In the absence of procedural irregularities, a candidate is reconsidered only in rare
instances when the Provost is satisfied that there is evidence of substantial scholarly
growth following the original negative decision. In support of such requests, the
nominating school or department submits a statement that explains why it believes
the new work meets the standard for a second review. That statement should deal
only with the new materials and not with the work considered during the first review.
2. Lack of evidence of substantial scholarly growth following the original negative decision.
Professor Massad's Columbia web page lists his scholarly publications only through 2007, as
does his entry in Wikipedia, which was updated in 2009. That entry lists Massad's op-ed
pieces into 2009,4 but the only "Books" and "Articles" dated after January 2007 are:
"Affiliating with Edward Said," in Edward Said: Emancipation and Representation, Adel
Iskandar and Hakem Rustom, eds., (Berkeley: University of California Press,
forthcoming), a contribution to a Proceedings honoring the late Edward Said, in which
Professor Massad comments on his affiliation with the latter, and
Desiring Arabs. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.( June 15, 2007)
In his March 2005 statement to a Columbia ad hoc committee investigating charges against
him, Massad announced: "My recent work on sexuality and queer theory is also taught across
the country and a book length study on the subject is forthcoming from Harvard University
Press."5 Hence, the book or at least the manuscript must have been part of the record
considered by the first ad hoc committee. No other recent scholarly output is readily
detectable, and the proceedings volume is still forthcoming.
Although Desiring Arabs received the 2008 Lionel Trilling Award (conferred by a group of
Columbia students), the award was not for new work but recognition of the 2007 work.
3. The second ad hoc committee and the forwarding of the nomination: The Faculty Handbook
When the rationale for the new review is scholarly growth, the Provost normally reconvenes the original ad hoc committee to conduct a second review, replacing only those members who are not available.
According to Gershman's article: "the professor who led the first review of Massad refused to serve again." As you know, most faculty members take tenure committee responsibilities very seriously. We therefore wonder why a tenure committee chair refused such responsibilities. We also wonder whether or not the Provost reversed his prior position and forwarded the second nomination to the President or, given his lame duck status, stuck to his guns. In either case, somehow the nomination must have come to the President, because it then went to the Trustees for endorsement.
4. The duration of Massad's service as an untenured faculty member. Again, according to the
Under the University's Code of Academic Freedom and Tenure, full time officers of instruction in some grades of appointment are limited to a maximum of eight
counted years of full-time continuous service, unless they are granted tenure….An
exception to the eight year rule is made only when by prior and special permission
of the provost, a review for tenure is deferred until the officer's eighth year. If the
outcome of the review is negative, the officer is reappointed for a ninth and terminal
The Faculty Handbook defines "counted years of service" and exceptions to them as follows:
Up to one full year of appointment in a nonprofessorial rank (i,e., instructor, senior
lecturer, lecturer, associate, or assistant) or one year of a leave of absence is
routinely excluded from the eight-year limit. . . Ordinarily, no more than one year of
full time appointment may be excluded. . . . However, when a leave of absence is
granted for medical reasons, child care, military service or personal hardship, the
Provost may rule that it will not be counted in calculating the up-or-out date.
Professor Massad was first appointed in 1999 and has been on the Columbia faculty ever
since. His (initial) ad hoc review took place in 2007, which, by the above rules, must have
been his seventh or eighth year of service.6 In either case, the following year 2007-2008
should have been the terminal year of appointment, with no option for further extensions,
whether in the form of paid service or unpaid leaves of absence.
More disturbing than any individual award of tenure, and perhaps more disturbing than the
possibility that the award was based on procedural irregularities, is Gershman's account of what
happened, when the Trustees raised questions about Professor Massad's dossier:
the administration refused to share with the trustees any list of who was on the two tenure
committees. The board was also kept in the dark as to why Massad failed the first
review. Bollinger and Brinkley also refused to discuss in detail why Massad was
permitted another shot. Instead, the administration — apparently more interested in
managing public relations than dealing with the substance of the underlying problem –
simply provided the trustees with a set of talking points with "helpful facts" about the
university's Jewish student center. When I tried contacting trustee Esta Stecher, a senior
administration official alerted the board about my inquiries and reminded the trustees that
the university doesn't comment on tenure cases. In the end, Columbia's board of trustees
approved Massad's tenure appointment before ever getting answers.
If accurately described, the administration's response implies a belief that the questions about the
procedural correctness of Professor Massad's tenure reviews were motivated solely by concern
for the comfort of Jewish students. Such a belief in turn implies contempt, not only for the
questioners and the constituency the questioners were thought to represent, but for academic due
Our impression that procedural irregularities occurred may be incorrect, but correcting that
impression requires facts. It can be argued that we are not entitled to those facts. In theory,
faculty who are not involved in a specific tenure review have no right to any information about
it. However, all our information comes from published sources. In the electronic era, secrecy is
difficult, and it may never have been easy. Certainly, the Trustees charged with endorsing the
tenure decision were entitled to truthful and responsive answers to their questions about the
If the irregularities we enumerate above occurred but are not unique to this case, we are even
more concerned because then they are part of a series of precedents that may return to haunt us in
the years to come. Professor Massad's review is history, but new faculty come up for review
When you arrive in New York to start your new job, may we (say, three of us) meet with you to
discuss these issues?
Larry V. Amsel, College of Physicians & Surgeons, Psychiatric Institute
Paul S. Appelbaum, Elisabeth K.Dollard Professor, College of Physicians & Surgeons,
Ann P. Bartel, Merrill Lynch Professor of Workforce Transformation,
Graduate School of Business
Leonard Druyan, Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Awi Federgruen, Charles E.Exley Professor of Management,
Graduate School of Business
Michael E. Goldberg, David Mahoney Professor of Brain and Behavior, Department of
College of Physicians & Surgeons
Ari L. Goldman, Professor, School of Journalism
Jonathan Gross, Professor, Computer Science Department, School of Engineering and Applied
Judith S. Jacobson, Mailman School of Public Health
Ran Kivetz, Philip H.Geier, Jr. Professor of Marketing, Graduate School of Business
Elizabeth Midlarsky, Professor of Psychology and Education, Teachers College
Kenneth Prager, Professor of Clinical Medicine, College of Physicians and Surgeons
Yechiam Yemini, Professor, Computer Science Department, School of Engineering and Applied
Cc: President Lee C. BollingerNote: 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.
receive the latest by email: subscribe to campus watch's free mailing list