Accusations of bias and even anti-Semitism have swirled around the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures Department for several years. Although we don't know exactly what has occurred and have no wish to comment on the alleged behavior of certain professors, we believe both MEALAC and the University can make an effort to address this situation.
Professor Joseph Massad, a focus of contention after the release of a new film that has reawakened this controversy, has a responsibility to issue a comment on the situation. Doing so is in the best interest of the University, whose reputation is inevitably tarnished by such accusations. A comment from Massad would be invaluable in helping to clarify the contradictions between the statements of students who accuse Massad of verbally threatening and intimidating them in class and those who say he is one of the best professors at Columbia.
Reached at his home yesterday, Massad said that he was not willing to issue a statement to Spectator at this time. We hope that Massad will reconsider this stance and allow everyone in the Columbia community to hear his side of the story.
The high quality of Massad's scholarship, along with that of his colleagues in MEALAC, cannot be questioned. However, it is clear that MEALAC is not a politically balanced department. In this discipline in particular, a slant toward a certain political ideology—in this case, an anti-Israel stance—can go a long way toward creating a hostile atmosphere for dissenters.
This situation merely emphasizes the one-sidedness of MEALAC. It is incumbent upon MEALAC to create more balance within the department. We are not suggesting that anyone be fired so that a professor with a more pro-Israel standpoint can be hired. However, when hiring the next MEALAC professor or associate professor, President Bollinger and Provost Brinkley should make ideological balance a priority.
We commend President Bollinger for swiftly working to address this situation. A formal inquiry by the University—which has not happened in the past because a formal complaint against an individual professor in MEALAC has never been lodged—can go a long way in clarifying this issue for students and professors.
As this page expressed last year when Professor Nicholas de Genova called for "a million Mogadishus," we are thankful to have a University president who will always support the first amendment rights of his faculty. But, like Bollinger, we hope that our professors are not crossing the line between freedom of speech and ideological inculcation and intimidation.