Furious faculty at Columbia University claim administrators skirted rules by granting tenure to a controversial Arab-studies professor -- and angry alumni are threatening to withhold donations.
Joseph Massad -- a professor of modern Arab politics who has called Israel a "racist Jewish state," reportedly intimidated Jewish students, and even asked one Israeli student attending an off-campus lecture how many Palestinians he had murdered as a soldier -- got the lifelong teaching gig last month.
Massad's first bid for tenure was denied in the fall of 2007, and the 45-year-old Palestinian-Arab prof has not published any major scholarly work in the past two years, according to critics and Massad's Web page on the Columbia Internet site.
Columbia states a professor can be reconsidered for tenure only in the case of "substantial scholarly growth following the original negative decision," according to the university's faculty handbook.
"I will not make any contributions to Columbia," said Herbert London, class of 1960, who is president of the Hudson Institute. "I used to give money to the school's athletic program, but I no longer have any desire to do so. This is the end of the line."
Geoffrey Thompson, class of 1963, said, "Members of my class are very upset. Some are material contributors, and will want restrictions for any new gift in the future. Joseph Massad is a flash point, a violent one."
Steve Case, who serves on the university's board of trustees, defended the university's decision.
"I regret that Columbia alumni disapprove of this decision, and I hope they find a way to overcome it," he said.
In 2004, a university investigation backed up some allegations that Massad expressed anti-Israel views in his classroom.
The university concluded that the incident when Massad grilled an Israeli student about killing Palestinians fell into a "challenging gray zone" because it took place at an off-campus lecture. Massad said he had no recollection of the event.
But the committee found no evidence of anti-Semitic statements.