Controversial Barnard professor Nadia Abu El-Haj has received tenure, according to an e-mail sent by a departmental administrator to the anthropology listserv on Thursday.
"Here is the good news: Professor Nadia Abu El-Haj is now a tenured member of the Barnard and Columbia Anthropology Departments," academic departmental administrator Xiomara Perez-Betances wrote in the e-mail. The e-mail provided no further information.
Apart from the e-mail, Spectator was unable to confirm Thursday night that tenure had been offered. Abu El-Haj and Barnard College Communications did not return several calls placed last night, and Columbia spokesman Robert Hornsby declined to comment, saying the University does not discuss individual tenure processes.
Abu El-Haj has come under fire for her 2002 book, Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society, in which she allegedly denies the existence of the ancient Jewish state of Israel. Though her bid for tenure drew criticism from a number of alumni and organizations like Campus Watch, a group that monitors Middle Eastern studies on college campuses, Abu El-Haj has also received strong support from colleagues within the department and beyond.
Lisa Hajjar, a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara who knew Abu El-Haj when the two were students at Hebrew University, wrote a letter to the editor of Spectator defending her.
"Contrary to one of the central allegations of her critics, Nadia Abu El-Haj does not claim that there was no Israelite historical presence in the land, as anyone who actually reads her award-winning book Facts on the Ground would know," she wrote.
Online petitions have been circulated both in support of and opposition to Abu El-Haj receiving tenure. Critics including Paula Stern, BC '82 and author of the anti-tenure petition, accuse her of not citing sources appropriately, not having a thorough knowledge of Hebrew, and purposely mischaracterizing or ignoring parts of archaeological record. Supporters including Paul Manning, assistant professor of anthropology at Trent University in Canada, began a counterpetition stating that Stern's assertions hailed from ethnic prejudice and, as the petition states, "an orchestrated witch-hunt (reminiscent of course of McCarthyism) against politically unpopular ideas."
"At the time of the petition, I knew that Ms. Abu El-Haj had already been recommended for tenure, and indeed, had received it at Barnard, so it was a no-brainer to write a petition that argued on principle, that she should be given tenure," Manning told Spectator in September.
Though some have criticized his opposition to Abu El-Haj because he is not an anthropologist, Alan Segal, the Ingeborg Rennert professor of Jewish studies at Barnard, has spoken at length against Abu El-Haj's tenure. "The issue in a tenure scrutiny must be focused on the quality of the work," he wrote in a submission to Spectator's Opinion section in September. "My opinion comes after having read her dissertation and her book carefully, after having served for six years on Barnard's ATP [Appointments, Tenure and Promotion] committee, and after having been a chair myself, charged with preparing cases in my department, as well as being professionally interested in the fields she needs to make her case. My judgment is ‘No.'"
Tom Faure contributed to this article.
Hayley Negrin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.