Students at the Ramaz School, a Jewish prep school in Manhattan, created a petition to oppose their school's decision to prohibit a speech by Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi.
Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia, as well as Director of the Middle East Institute at SIPA.
The Ramaz Political Society, a student group, invited Khalidi to give a talk, but the event was banned by the school's administrators. The decision appears to be based on Khalidi's outspoken criticism of Israel and U.S. policy in the Middle East. Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East is the scathing title of just one of Khalidi's books on the subject.
A Ramaz student recently drafted a petition to allow Khalidi to speak, which has garnered 203 signatures and counting. The petition reads:
"I, an open-minded, intellectually honest, and unprejudiced student of the Ramaz Upper School support The Ramaz Politics Society's (RamPo) event on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict headlined by Columbia Professor Rashid Khalidi. I believe it is critical that Ramaz students are exposed to different perspectives and that open dialogue be encouraged at Ramaz—not limited. I call upon Head of School Mr. Shaviv to realize how important academic equitability is to the Ramaz community and reverse his prohibition on Professor Khalidi's address to RamPo."
In a letter sent home to parents on Friday, Ramaz Head of School Paul Shaviv called the student group's invitation to Khalidi "well intentioned, but inappropriate." Shaviv defended his decision to prohibit the talk: "We felt that controversy would be inevitable over this invitation, would massively overshadow any conversation and would make an educational experience impossible; and also that Prof. Khalidi, who is an international personality of great political stature, was not the right partner for 'dialogue' with high school students."
School administrators have not changed their stance as the number of petitions signatures continues to grow.