The Joseph Massad and Nadia Abu El Haj cases present an interesting question: Should alumni, donors, and taxpayers - in the case of public institutions - have a voice in university hiring decisions?
Granted, the two cases are different. Joseph Massad is a mediocre scholar, though not worse than many. He is controversial because he shoots his mouth off, coming out with a lot of anti-Semitic nonsense off the cuff, in the classroom, and in the popular press.
Nadia Abu El Haj, by contrast, is a mere pseudo-scholar. She is the author of a single published book that denies the existence of the ancient Israelite kingdoms. It would be considered crank scholarship if not for the fashionable post-colonial, anti-Israel prose in which it is couched. Alumna are entitled to be outraged. And yet the Barnard and Columbia faculty are defending their right to tenure this propagandist because, well, apparently because they resent the fact that the alumnae are up in arms about her. Okay, also because a lot of them reallly like her anti-Israel politics and the cool, radical chic feeling that having a genuine Palestinian on faculty lends to the campus. Still, this fight appears to be largely about the right of university faculties to do as they please with no adult supervision.
But surely the adults, the administrators and trustees, have some responsibilities here. Barnard is not a wealthy school. And while much of the faculty harbors an irrational hatred of the Jewish State, few alumnae do. Should the fact that alumnae donations may fall be a factor in this decision?
Or, put it another way, since the two cases Sol posted about today involve Columbia. What are the ethics of accepting money from donors who would like to dismantle the Jewish State to create an endowed chair named after Edward Said, a man who worked hard to dismantle the Jewish State, and appointing as its first occupant Rashid Khalidi, a sometime PLO consultant and spokesman who works assiduously to dismantle the Jewish State?
If hiring a stridently political professor in order to get a large endowment is acceptable - and Columbia did agree to hire the highly political Rashid Khalidi in order to get that generous endowment – they why is denying tenure to Joseph Massad or to Nadia Abu El Haj in order to protect the flow of alumni donations unacceptable?