Editor's Note: The following letters concern the lecture of Dr. Daniel Pipes. Pipes is a columnist for The New York Post and The Jerusalem Post, as well as the director of the Middle East Forum. According to its Web site, www.meforum.org, "The Middle East Forum, a think tank, works to define and promote American interests in the Middle East." Pipes will present a free public lecture, "Militant Islam Reaches America," tonight at 7:30 in the Kerr Auditorium of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. In normal circumstances, The Daily tries to limit letters to the editor to 200 words. However, in this case it was decided that letters would appear uncut.
Daniel Pipes presents a danger to academic freedom
To the editor:
Daniel Pipes is scheduled to speak on "militant Islam" tonight. Pipes is the director of the Middle East Forum and a member of the Defense Department's Special Task Force on Terrorism Technology.
But Daniel Pipes is also the co-founder of Campus Watch, a recently established internet Web site that has begun to "monitor" American universities (including Harvard University, the University of North Carolina and the University of Chicago) along with leading scholars whose work focuses on the Middle East and who are suspected of harboring an anti-Israel bias. Students and colleagues are invited to contribute to these online "dossiers" and to help establish new ones.
The professors listed on the site have reported massive e-mail harassment; one has reportedly received death threats over the phone.
Although we welcome Pipes to speak on an important and timely topic, we neither endorse nor condone the activities of Campus Watch. Academic freedom, which is central to our work as research scholars and as teachers, depends upon the free and open exchange of ideas and beliefs. Unfortunately, groups like Campus Watch inhibit that exchange. Indeed, compiling dossiers on professors and universities threatens to poison the climate of intellectual engagement at a time when we urgently need measured discussion and debate.
Our commitment to academic freedom leads us to welcome Dr. Pipes to OU. That same commitment leads us to condemn the tactics of his Web site, Campus Watch.
-- Gary Anderson
-- James Cane-Carrasco
-- Ray Canoy
-- Carol Chin
-- Elyssa Faison
-- Paul Gilje
-- James Hart
-- Sandie Holguin
-- Albert Hurtado
-- Catherine Kelly
-- Ben Keppel
-- Joshua Landis
-- David Levy
-- Judith Lewis
-- Roberta Magsnusson
-- Joshua Piker
-- Donald Pisani
-- William Savage
-- Daniel Snell
Pipes used freedom of speech to fight misinformation
To the editor:
It is unfortunate that some OU professors have signed a statement "condemn(ing) the tactics" of Dr. Pipes' new Web site, www.campus-watch.org, for allegedly denying the academic freedom of some writers on the Middle East. The statement is misleading on every count.
Pipes' Web site should be welcomed by all who recognize that academic freedom has never meant a license for faculty to present disinformation in classrooms or public forums without criticism. The Web site provides valuable services by posting articles and speeches, often in their entirety, of several instructors around the country on Middle Eastern affairs, and by carefully analyzing and criticizing their biases and errors. Far from violating academic freedom, Pipes is using free speech to fight false speech. Academic freedom must include academic responsibility, and Pipes is holding faculty accountable for their assertions.
Unfortunately, as Dr. Stanley Kurtz has written, Middle Eastern Studies nationally lacks an intellectually diverse faculty who would insist on balanced discussions in the classroom. This is because Middle Eastern Studies faculty have driven divergent perspectives out of the university. Many national Middle Eastern Studies faculty who are protesting Pipes' supposed suppression of academic freedom "have prosecuted (a) vicious and successful campaign of blacklisting" in their field.
The OU professors condemn Pipes for "compiling dossiers," alleging that this inhibits "open . . . discussion and debate." In fact, these dossiers promote "intellectual engagement." The dossiers on professors consist largely of their own writings and speeches, and newspaper articles about them. Thus, Pipes reproduces an article by Shahid Alam of Northeastern University, which appears to justify Palestinian suicide bombers, and a Boston Herald article on Alam, "Prof. Shocks Northeastern with Defense of Suicide Bombers." By posting these articles, Pipes makes them available for scrutiny and criticism. The file on Snehal Shingavi of Berkeley contains Shingavi's listing for his course, "Politics and Poetry of Palestinian Resistance," which states "Conservative thinkers are encouraged to seek other sections," i.e., not to take his course. The file also includes Chris Matthews' interview with Shingavi on "Hardball." Far from suppressing "open discussion," the dossier promotes it. Similarly, the University of Chicago file features an account compiled by professors there, analyzing various campus incidents and the administration's response, showing the greater protection accorded Muslim, than Jewish, students.
In short, Dr. Pipes should be commended for encouraging serious analysis and debate of critical issues, providing a much-needed and long overdue service.
-- Stephen H. Norwood
-- Eunice G. Pollack
Pipes' program presents a grave threat to civil liberties
To the editor:
Tonight, Daniel Pipes, director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, will deliver a lecture at OU. Although Mr. Pipes' sponsors will conceptualize him as an important and responsible intellectual, his discourse in fact constitutes a grave danger to American civil liberties and the freedoms we enjoy in the Academy.
Mr. Pipes recently helped launch Campus Watch, a group that monitors what it considers "anti-Israeli" activity on college campuses. Campus Watch is compiling dossiers that track the speech and classroom pedagogy of prestigious academics. The organization posts these dossiers online and encourages students to spy on listed academics (inside and outside the classroom) and report their findings for public consumption. The enterprise has been met with sharp criticism by scholars on the right, center, and left, who rightly consider it to be a serious threat not only to free speech and civil liberties, but also to classroom conduct and the ability of students to learn in an environment free of political tension. If Campus Watch has its way, then, the limits placed on academic speech by political interests in parts of the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa will have pervaded the American Academy, something inimical to the mission of American education.
Despite the fact that, as Professor Ian Lustick of the University of Pennsylvania observes, Mr. Pipes "takes views that no responsible academic would ever articulate," our objection to OU's hosting of Mr. Pipes has nothing to do with the immediate politics of the Middle Eastern region. We object to Mr. Pipes on the basis of his unambiguous assault on academic freedom. We in turn unambiguously affirm Mr. Pipes's right to free expression at OU or in any other public space. We simply find it both ironic and unfortunate that he seeks to restrict the very liberties that permit him to articulate unsavory and controversial opinions.
In celebration of the freedoms we currently enjoy, therefore, we encourage OU students, employees, and faculty to exercise their rights this evening and challenge Mr. Pipes to justify the dangerous precedent Campus Watch has set. We ask: Why does his desire to protect Israel's reputation outweigh his desire to retain the unalienable American right of unfettered speech? Nowhere is that right more important than in institutions of higher education. And we ask: Is he willing to suffer the restrictions he supports if they cease to apply only to his political enemies and would instead apply to him?
-- Steven Salita
The Arab Student Association