If the president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, is still trying to figure out the right way to handle the crisis over the Middle East studies department there, one good move would be to give the New York City schools chancellor, Joel Klein, a call. When The New York Sun's Julia Levy broke the news that one of Columbia's notoriously anti-Israel professors, Rashid Khalidi, was going to be paid to train New York City schoolteachers on how to teach about the Middle East to impressionable school children, the city's education department dropped Mr. Khalidi faster than one could say Yasser Arafat. "Considering his past statements, Rashid Khalidi should not have been included in a program that provided professional development for DOE teachers and he won't be participating in the future," Mr. Klein's press secretary, Jerry Russo, said in a statement.
In that straightforward sentence from the City of New York is encapsulated more sense than anything Mr. Bollinger or his team of Columbia colleagues have been able to muster so far in months of dealing with Mr. Khalidi & Co. The Columbia president has responded to the scandal there by appointing committees and task forces, by hand wringing about the First Amendment, and by paying calls around the city to reassure Jewish leaders that he won't tolerate bigotry on campus. In contrast, the City of New York responded by promptly severing whatever relationship it had with the professor. It was plain to the city authorities that Mr. Khalidi shouldn't be training city schoolteachers.
Why isn't it clear to Columbia that he shouldn't be teaching Columbia students? We'd hate to think that the $200,000 Columbia took from the United Arab Emirates to help pay for Mr. Khalidi's professorship had anything to do with it. But until Columbia does what Harvard did and returns the UAE's money, it will be understandable if people wonder. As for Mr. Klein, well, our regard for him has grown over the years, and we know quite a few people around town who reckon that he is one reason for voting to give a second term to Mayor Bloomberg. But if Mr. Bloomberg fails to gain a second term, we know of a university on Morningside Heights that could use a man like him as president.