Students and faculty members at York University, in Toronto, have been engulfed in a controversy over plans for appearances on the campus by Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum and founder of Campus Watch, a controversial, pro-Israel Web site.
Officials at York will decide later today on a venue for a public forum on Tuesday featuring Mr. Pipes. One of the research institutes at the university, the York Center for International and Security Studies, withdrew last week as a co-sponsor of the forum and canceled a private luncheon with Mr. Pipes because of his involvement with Campus Watch.
"They don't like what I'm doing," said Mr. Pipes, noting that the cancellation of a scheduled event -- the lunch-- was "a first" for him, although he has been disinvited from campuses in the United States before his appearance was actually confirmed.
Campus Watch is a Web site with information about allegedly anti-Israel or pro-terrorist views espoused by faculty members. Mr. Pipes and supporters of the site say that it is an appropriate way to draw attention to views they consider biased and irresponsible, but many professors who are named on the site say that their ideas have been distorted or oversimplified. Some of them charge that the site is an attempt to intimidate them from making legitimate criticism of Israel (The Chronicle, October 11).
Mr. Pipes was originally scheduled to speak publicly at the university's student center after the private lunch, but building managers went to the university administration, saying they felt the student center might not be secure enough if there were protests.
York officials say there was never a question of canceling Mr Pipes's public forum, sponsored by York's Jewish Student Federation. "We're choosing between two locations on campus," said Cim Nunn, director of public affairs. "York has a long tradition of respecting people's right for free speech, and we want to ensure that everyone's safety is ensured."
Faculty members at the research institute say that it withdrew its name from the public forum after members of its faculty raised questions about Campus Watch. "We've had an interesting week of internal debate about the issue," said David Mutimer, deputy director of the center. "At the time we agreed to co-sponsor, we did not know about his involvement with Campus Watch."
Mr. Mutimer said that Mr. Pipes is "a well credentialed commentator with extreme views," but that his views didn't matter "because they can be challenged in a discussion." What was problematic, he said, was Campus Watch and the way it operates. As a result, an intense e-mail debate about Campus Watch ensued among the members of the research center and the question as to whether it should co-sponsor Mr. Pipes's public appearance and give him a private lunch.
"It was a tough decision," said Mr. Mutimer, "but we have withdrawn."
The research institute plans to post the faculty members' e-mail debate -- with names deleted -- on its Web site later today.
According to Mr. Pipes, now that he's free for lunch on Tuesday, he's willing to have lunch with interested students or faculty members "either on-campus or off."