On Monday, I linked to an email exchange between Phil Orenstein and Barnard President Judith Shapiro concerning the tenure bid of Barnard Wakademic, Nadia Abu El-Haj.
There was a sentence in one of Shapiro's responses that I sort of glossed over when I read it, but others took notice of:
To clarify and provide some additional information: I do not myself believe that the people who are getting in touch with me anonymously truly need to do so. Nadia Abu El-Haj has also received death threats from those opposed to her work.
I glossed over it when I read for a few reasons: Claims of receiving "death threats" are a dime a dozen on the internet. Sometimes people misinterpret things or express themselves in an ill-advised way that someone looking to make themselves look like a sympathetic victim can intentionally blow out of proportion.
I also wouldn't be surprised if some fool said or wrote something they thought was "helpful" but was actually stupid and despicable. It's a big world with a lot of fools in it. Such threats, if real and beyond the type of thing one gets in the typical internet "nastygram", are never justified in a free society.
If El-Haj actually received a threat, I'd like to know if she reported it to law enforcement. If not, I doubt even she thinks it's credible. A call can be traced, an email can be forwarded with full headers and likewise usually be traced.
At Campus Watch, Winfield Myers "calls out" El Haj, noting other instances of academics who claimed threats that ended up amounting to nothing anyone could ever pin down: Judith Shapiro Claims Nadia Abu El Haj Has Received a Death Threat; Will She Produce Evidence?
...Nadia Abu El-Haj has also received death threats from those opposed to her work.
Two questions leap to mind:
* Can Shapiro (or Nadia Abu El Haj) produce evidence to back up this claim?
* Was the threat reported to a law enforcement agency?
There is no excuse for threatening scholars, and I sincerely hope that anyone who does so is arrested and prosecuted. Vigorous debate is the lifeblood of intellectual life, and only intellectual cowards resort to threats. If El Haj received such threats, no legitimate critic of hers will wish for anything other than seeing the person or persons who made the threats swiftly brought to justice...