After being told that the ad hoc committee report would not be released until this morning, three students waited for over two hours before successfully persuading Provost Alan Brinkley to allow them to read the document in his Low Library office late last night.
The students, all members of Columbians for Academic Freedom, were angry after hearing rumors that the report had been released to some press outlets. Ariel Beery, GS '05, Dena Roth, BC '06, and Bari Weiss, CC '07, who have advocated on behalf of the students alleging misconduct on the part of Middle East studies professors, gathered on the Low steps at around 8:30 p.m. with the intention of directly asking for University President Lee Bollinger's permission to view the document immediately.
"We decided to go there because we were disgusted by the move Columbia made to protect its own image rather than respect its students," Weiss said.
Bollinger—along with several other administrators—was inside the building at a dinner and lecture with Desmond Tutu and Toni Morrison, so the students deliberated for roughly 45 minutes about what course of action to take as they regrouped on the Low steps.
Inside the building, the students encountered University spokeswoman Susan Brown, who refused to let them see the report under any circumstances, despite the fact that it had already been released to some press sources. Brown told the students that nobody had seen the report except for The New York Times and Spectator. But according to a Times story that was released online shortly afterward, MEALAC professor Joseph Massad, whose name had appeared in the report, had finished reading the document by last night.
The Times story included quotes from Bollinger and Massad, but no student reaction, a fact that upset members of CAF.
After leaving the building, the students caught sight of Brinkley on the Low steps, and conversed with him for roughly 10 minutes about why they were not allowed to see the report. Brinkley apologized to the students and told them that he would check on why they could not view it.
"I could see they felt very strongly they were being excluded," Brinkley said. "Because they were here, because they were mentioned in the report, we decided to let them see it."
Thirty minutes later, Brinkley reappeared, told the students that they would be allowed to view the document, and asked them to wait at one of the side entrances to Low. Weiss, Roth, and Beery waited for about 30 minutes before growing impatient and walking into Bollinger's office on the building's ground floor.
Just outside Bollinger's office, the students encountered a group of security guards that directed them to return to the outside entrance.
Brinkley said that the students were forced to wait so long because the decision to let them see the document "wasn't spur of the moment. It took quite a while."
Eventually, the students went into Brinkley's office with the provost. They sat in his office until close to midnight reading the report, then released a brief statement to The New York Sun. The Sun had obtained its own copy of the document, though according to Brown, not from Columbia administrators.
Weiss, Beery, and Roth had been especially anxious about the release of the report because it was initially intended to be ready last Friday. Weiss said she had not been told why the report was not ready by the original release date.
"I was disturbed because we wanted so badly to heal the Columbia community and get past this and we think at the very least that the people that see that report would be the Columbia students," Weiss said.