Reported rumors have spread that Middle East and Asian languages and cultures professor Joseph Massad will be granted tenure.
Yet despite the chatter, most notably reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education on Wednesday, the outcome of the controversial Palestinian scholar's tenure process remains to be seen and the review has not concluded. The Chronicle's blog stated that a "professor in the department who did not want to be named said word on the grapevine within the department is that Mr. Massad will be awarded tenure."
Columbia officials would not confirm, deny, or comment on the status of the confidential tenure process. The committee of faculty responsible for reviewing Massad's tenure petition—none of whom, according to University policy, are members of his own department—were unavailable to or declined to speak.
Massad, who is in his second round of tenure review consideration, is currently abroad in Egypt and could not be reached for comment. Other members of the MEALAC department declined to comment or were unavailable.
In 2007, Massad's review for tenure made headlines over rumors that his petition had been denied. In June of that year he released his newest book, Desiring Arabs, which was not included among the tenure committee's first batch of materials.
Though a second round of review is not unheard of in Columbia's tenure process, it does not take place frequently. The University's faculty handbook, published by the Provost's office, outlines the way the review process works and explains that, "a second review may be conducted for a candidate after a negative decision if the Provost determines that the first was marked by procedural irregularities of a magnitude that materially affected its outcome."
Outside of "procedural irregularities," "a candidate is reconsidered only in rare instances when the Provost is satisfied that there is evidence of substantial scholarly growth following the original negative decision." In that case, the nominating department submits a statement that includes new materials which were not previously reviewed.
Massad received his doctorate in political science from Columbia in 1998. As a faculty member, he has received attention not only for his academic work, but also for his controversial stances on issues ranging from Israeli identity to American politics in the Middle East. In 2005, Massad was thrust into the limelight surrounding an investigation of the MEALAC department after students' reports that they were intimidated in class for expressing support of Israel inspired David Project's documentary, Columbia Unbecoming.
After the investigation, Massad wrote that the report "suffers from major logical flaws, undefended conclusions, inconsistencies, and clear bias in favor of the witch-hunt that has targeted me for over three years," according to the MEALAC Web site.
Since then, many—especially scholars and students of Middle Eastern studies—have anticipated the outcome of Massad's bid for tenure.
In the final stages of the process, "the Provost weighs the evidence presented to the committee and the discussion of the members at their meeting before deciding whether to accept their recommendation," the Faculty Handbook states. The provost then submits his or her recommendation to the University president, who can then forward a tenure nomination to Columbia's board of trustees.
Though the provost, president, and board are not bound by the tenure review committee's recommendation, the handbook describes such departures as "unusual cases."
"The most important part of the tenure process is the ad-hoc committee," Provost Alan Brinkley said. "Usually there is a strong connection between what the ad-hoc committee decides and what subsequent steps in the process do. They usually are all the same."
Kim Kirschenbaum and Alix Pianin contributed reporting to this firstname.lastname@example.org