Last year, several Jewish students at Columbia University reported that they had been intimidated by professors of Middle Eastern studies both in and out of class. Now, according to the New York Times, a Columbia University panel has found that one professor, Joseph Massad, did engage in such conduct, and that another, George Saliba, made a “regrettable” personal reference to a Jewish student’s appearance. In Saliba’s case, however, the panel thought that his remark — that the student had no claim to the land of Israel because her eyes are green — more likely was “integral to an argument” he was making than an act approaching intimidation.
The panel found “no evidence of any statements made by faculty that could reasonably be construed as anti-Semitic.” But that finding isn’t surprising inasmuch as the panel consisted entirely of five faculty members, several of whom have expressed anti-Israel views, according to the Times. This may explain why the panel viewed the statement referred to above to the green-eyed Jewish student as an integral part of an argument, rather than an obviously racist remark.
Nor is it surprising that, at least according to the Times’ account, the panel seemed to find more fault with Jewish students who responded to the misconduct of faculty members and with “outside advocacy groups devoted to purposes tangential to the university,” than with the faculty members who attempted to cut off debate by ordering a pro-Israeli student out of the class room for asking a question, as Massad did, or by invoking personal appearance as an integral part of an argument. Does the panel have any basis for believing that the purpose of the “outside advocacy groups” in question is other than to help promote an intimidation-free university environment? Absent evidence to that effect, one must wonder what the panel thinks the purpose of Columbia University is, if legitimate questions about whether its students are being intimidated by professors amount only to a “tangential” matter.
UPDATE: The New York Sun has more on the faculty panel report. The details in the Sun report, which the Times omitted, make the report look like a whitewash. For example, the Sun reports that “the panel essentially cleared the professors who on April 17, 2002, canceled classes on the day of an anti-Israel rally on campus and encouraged students to attend the demonstration.” And it made no mention of an article that an Iranian professor at Columbia, Hamid Dabashi, wrote for an Egyptian newspaper, Al-Ahram, last fall in which he observed that Israelis suffer from “a vulgarity of character that is bone-deep and structural to the skeletal vertebrae of its culture.” Had the panel mentioned this statement, it would have had to reconcile it with its finding that there is no evidence of anti-semitic statements by Columbia faculty members.
The Sun also reports on Columbia’s efforts to manage the news regarding the panel report:
In an effort to manage favorable coverage of its investigation into the complaints, the university disclosed a summary of the committee’s report only to the Columbia Spectator, the campus newspaper, and the New York Times. Those newspapers, sources indicated to The New York Sun last night, made an agreement with the central administration that they would not speak to the students who made the complaints against the professors.
The Sun obtained a copy of the report without the permission of the university administration. Last night, when a reporter from the Sun came to Low Library, the central administration building, for a copy of the report, a security guard threatened to arrest the reporter if she did not leave the building.
According to one student, senior Ariel Beery, one of the campus’s most outspoken critics of the professors, a Columbia spokeswoman told him that students were not being shown the report yesterday “for your own good.” Late last night, however, after some of the students who made the charges demanded to see the report, the administration relented and showed it to them.
It strikes me that Columbia is flirting with police state type tactics in order to defend the pro-Palestinian police state members of its faculty.