The administration and faculty on Morningside Heights have ducked behind an ivy wall of silence. Concerned that alumni will discover what they are up to, they are refusing to take calls from reporters and alumni – refusing to confirm or deny what everybody now assumes: that the controversial anthropologist Nadia Abu El Haj is up for tenure.
El Haj has published one book, which has been criticized by her scholarly peers as a form of Jewish history-denial often called "Temple Denial," because of its parallel with "Holocaust Denial." In her book, Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society, El Haj makes the spurious claim that the ancient Jewish kingdoms never existed. According to her, even in the time of Jesus Jerusalem was "not Jewish."
A two-part tenure process is part of the complex relationship between Columbia University and Barnard College. Barnard faculty members first go up for tenure at Barnard and, if it is granted, their tenure bid is brought before Columbia.
JTA reports that Barnard President Judith Shapiro is believed to have "secretly" approved El Haj's tenure in May 2007, hitting the ball into Columbia's court.
Why the secrecy? Some say to prevent alumni from finding out. But the alumni are finding out. Some have started a petition, and others have announced that they will withhold donations if this tenure decision goes through.
Another part of the process that universities sometimes like to keep under wraps is the names of the people who make the key decisions. So here, for the record, are the names of the members of the Barnard Committee on Appointments, Tenure and Promotions who voted to grant tenure to a woman who has written an entire book asserting that the Israelite Kingdoms are a "pure political fabrication": Natalie Kampen (art history), Keith Moxey (art history), Joel Kaye (history), Herbert Sloan (history), and Paul Hertz (biology).