The president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, is coming under attack from the left wing of the campus, with 70 faculty members accusing him of allowing outside interests to sway the school's tenure decisions, and of aligning the university with the Bush administration's foreign policy in Iraq.
In a statement signed by those who say they are troubled by a lack of autonomy at Columbia, the faculty members accuse Mr. Bollinger of conflating his own political views with those of the university. The coalition of professors, which is calling itself the Faculty Action Committee, also accuses Mr. Bollinger of failing to issue a statement rejecting efforts by outside groups, such as alumni, to influence tenure decisions at the university.
"In the face of considerable efforts by outside groups over the past few years to vilify members of the faculty and determine how controversial issues are taught on campus, the administration has failed to make unequivocally clear that such interventions will not be tolerated," the letter, obtained Monday by The New York Sun, reads.
RELATED: Text of the Faculty Group's Letter
The professors, many of whom signed a petition two years ago calling on Columbia to divest from companies that sell arms and military hardware to Israel, plan to present the criticisms today at a closed-door meeting of the Arts and Sciences faculty.
"Freedom of speech on campus means that faculty members have the right to express their views, including about the University itself," a spokesman for Columbia, Robert Hornsby, said in a statement.
The administration at Columbia has clashed in the past with professors in the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures departments. Now the movement against Mr. Bollinger is gaining momentum across campus as more faculty members express dismay over his treatment of President Ahmadinejad of Iran in September.
Mr. Bollinger's harsh rebuke of the dictator, the letter said, "sullied the reputation of the University with its strident tone," and "allied the University with the Bush administration's war in Iraq." The group accuses Mr. Bollinger of taking "partisan political positions concerning the politics of the Middle East."
"You don't invite someone and then take him apart in the introduction," a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who teaches at Columbia, Mark Strand, said yesterday. "I don't understand it ethically, and I don't understand what it accomplished — that was my justification for signing the letter."
Some faculty members defending Mr. Bollinger said they feared the signers were following the lead of Harvard University faculty who last year forced their president, Lawrence Summers, to resign by voting a lack of confidence in him after he drew criticism for comments about women's aptitude in science.
The faculty members who signed the letter are:
Nadia Abu El-Haj, Lila Abu-Lughod, Qais Al-Awqati, Paul Anderer, Mark Anderson, Gil Anidjar, Zainab Bahrani, Akeel Bilgrami, Richard Billows, Elizabeth Blackmar, Partha Chatterjee, Lewis Cole, Jonathan Cole, Elaine Combs-Schilling, Susan Crane, Jonathan Crary, Julie Crawford, Hamid Dabashi, Patricia Dailey, Tom DiPrete, Brent Edwards, Eric Foner, Aaron Fox, Katherine Franke, Victoria de Grazia, Page Fortuna, Steven Gregory, William Harris, Andreas Huyssen, Rashid Khalidi, Alice Kessler-Harris, Marilyn Ivy, Brian Larkin, Lydia Liu, Sylvère Lotringer, Mahmood Mamdani, Peter Marcuse, Reinhold Martin, Mark Mazower, Mary McLeod, Brinkley Messick, Rosalind Morris, Keith Moxey, Frances Negron-Muntaner, Mae Ngai, Bob O'Meally, Neni Panourgia, John Pemberton, Richard Peña, Julie Peters, Pablo Piccato, Sheldon Pollock, Elizabeth Povinelli, Wayne Proudfoot, Bruce Robbins, David Rosner, George Saliba, James Schamus, David Scott, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Mark Strand, Paul Strohm, Michael Taussig, Ezra Tawil, Kendall Thomas, Nadia Urbinati, Marc van de Mieroop, Karen van Dyck, Dorothea von Mücke, Gauri Viswanathan, Gwendolyn Wright.