A controversial Web site that invited students to share anti-Israel comments made by their professors dropped the "dossiers" section it was keeping on individual professors from the site on Monday. But the critiques of the professors -- which many of them believe are inaccurate -- remain accessible in other portions of the Web site.
The Web site, called Campus Watch, is sponsored by the Middle East Forum, a pro-Israel research organization. The sponsors of the Web site said they were trying to draw attention to misinformation about Israel and the Middle East that they say is being spread by some professors. (See an article from The Chronicle, September 19.)
But since the Web site's creation last month, some faculty members have criticized the dossiers as intellectual intimidation that smacks of McCarthyism. Others have questioned the accuracy of the material in the dossiers.
In a statement posted on the Web site, the Middle East Forum announced the removal of the dossiers section. "The site has elicited overwhelming support from the public -- but a furious response from academics who focused almost exclusively on the site's dossiers on the work of specific instructors," said the statement. The dossiers have now been added to other parts of the Web site, which review various activities and programs at individual colleges and universities.
"We launched the site to draw attention to the condition of Middle Eastern studies," said Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, in a statement posted on the Web site. "But rather than address the problems we raise, Middle East specialists -- joined by their colleagues in other fields -- have talked about nothing but the format of the site. We have made this change to show our goodwill. Now, we hope they will respond to the charges that we are raising: the intellectual failure of Middle East studies, the tendency toward political extremism, the intolerance of alternative viewpoints, the apologetics, and the abuse of power toward students."
The shift by the Web site is unlikely to end the controversy.
Juan R.I. Cole, a professor of modern Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, is one of the professors on whom the site had a dossier.
In an e-mail interview Monday evening, he said, "The removal of the individual dossiers is merely a cosmetic change, since the same academics are still being spied on, only under the rubric of spying on their campuses instead. All the same hyperlinks are up concerning me, and the site continues to attempt to convey various false impressions about me."
Mr. Cole compared the dossiers to "cyber-stalking" and said that Mr. Pipes may have removed them because "the public-relations disaster that has befallen the whole effort has finally penetrated his skull."