Just when it looked like Columbia University might actually be striking an uncharacteristic blow for academic honesty comes word that the institution has caved in to pressure and awarded tenure to one of its most unsavory faculty members.
The reportedly lucky recipient is Joseph Massad, associate professor at Columbia's Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Culture -- who has long been notorious for his obnoxious pronouncements on Israel (and Jews generally), as well as his bullying of students who dare to disagree with him.
Word of Massad's tenure comes from As'ad AbuKhalil, a California professor who blogs under the name "angryarab" and reports -- in a "message to all the Zionist hoodlums out there"-- that Massad "called me from Cairo to break the great news."
Columbia refuses to confirm the "great news," saying it does not comment on tenure issues as a matter of policy. But, if true, it represents a shameful about-face and craven surrender to pressure.
Last fall, Columbia Provost Alan Brinkley reportedly moved to deny Massad tenure. This after an academic panel found that Massad violated academic standards by failing "to show respect for the rights of others to hold opinions differing from his own."
(The opinions with which some students chose to differ, by the way, include frequent vitriolic comparisons of Israeli leaders to Nazis and diatribes alleging undue Jewish influence on US policy.)
That led some faculty members to demand an unusual second hearing, saying that tenure decisions should be based on a candidate's "scholarship, teaching and service, not his political views."
But what if, as with Massad, his teaching and his politics are inseparable?
As disquieting as Massad's politics is his demeanor. He's repeatedly been accused of harassing students who disagree with him.
As for his scholarship, the College Art Association last year was forced to pay $75,000 to an Israeli professor who was accused of plagiarism by Massad in CAA's Art Journal.
In a public apology, the magazine said Massad's review "contained factual errors as well as unfounded assertions."
Nonetheless, it may well now be that Massad has been rewarded for his arrogance -- and can continue to use "honest academic debate" as a cover for disseminating his dishonest diatribes.
Shame on Columbia.