Scholars Group Faults Biased Committee Report For Not Restoring Columbia University's Integrity
Contact: Dr. Judith Jacobson, 917-375-5020 or <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>email@example.com, for Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Web: <http://www.spme.net/>http://www.spme.net/
NEW YORK, April 1 -- Following is a statement from the Columbia Chapter of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East on the Ad Hoc Grievance Committee Report released yesterday by Columbia University:
The Columbia Chapter of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) expresses its dismay regarding the Ad Hoc Grievance Committee Report, which was released yesterday evening by the University.
As members of the Columbia faculty, we have, over the course of the past 3 years, witnessed:
1. Systematic anti-Israel bias and breaches of academic integrity in curricula and course offerings,
2. Intimidation and humiliation of students because of their opinions regarding Israel, and
3. Abuse of the classroom as a platform for political propaganda and pressure.
Last December, a committee was appointed to investigate charges of intimidation of students. At the time, we expressed our concern about the committee's composition and ability to conduct an unbiased and thorough investigation. We issued to the Trustees of the University a 30-page report "BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS OF THE COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY ADMINISTRATION'S RESPONSE TO COLUMBIA UNBECOMING," in which we concluded:
The new committee reports to Nicholas Dirks, the recently appointed Vice President of Arts and Sciences. Dirks is married to a faculty member in the Department of Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC), the department most frequently accused of bias and intimidation. In 2002, when he chaired the Department of Anthropology, he and 19 colleagues in that department initiated a petition calling on Columbia to divest itself from companies conducting business with Israel. Bollinger denounced the petition as "grotesque and offensive." However, Dirks, his wife, and two members of the new faculty committee, Jean Howard and Farah Jasmine Griffin, were among the 106 faculty members who signed it. Lisa Anderson was the dissertation sponsor of Joseph Massad, the faculty member most frequently named in the film and other incident reports. She has publicly stated that faculty members should have complete freedom to determine what they teach. Mark Mazower has publicly compared Israel to Nazi Germany. The remaining committee member, Ira Katznelson, has no glaring conflicts of interest but, as interim Vice President for Arts and Sciences in 2002 - 2004, took no action regarding the many incidents reported to him and subsequently described in the film.
The incidents in the film are the tip of a rather large iceberg. Many students who chose not to appear in the film have privately reported experiences similar to or more serious than those described in the film. Several faculty and former faculty members also have incidents to report but have refused to appear in the film or to file formal complaints because of fears for their careers. The committee appointments have further discouraged those who have not had the courage to speak out before. The composition of the committee appears designed to thwart both a serious investigation and any remediation of the problems that led to its creation.
To the committee's credit, it has confirmed that the University administration grossly mishandled the allegations of the past few years. The committee should know because it includes administration members who were informed of and had the power to address the allegations at the time but chose not to do so.
Otherwise, the report has confirmed our predictions. Although many students and faculty submitted testimony, oral or written or both, to the committee, it claims to have found only three such incidents, all previously made public through the film, worth investigating. Among those three incidents, it identifies only one in which it deems a professor's conduct inappropriate. It characterizes as "exceeding commonly acceptable bounds" Professor Massad's threat to expel from his class a student who questioned his account of Israel's treatment of Palestinians.
In its dissemination of the report, the Administration continued to treat students disrespectfully. The Administration gave the report exclusively to the New York Times and the Spectator, allegedly with the condition that the articles not include comments from the students. The Times article indicates that the Administration gave Professor Massad a copy a few days ago, and includes his comments. No such courtesy was extended to the students involved. The report also criticizes faculty for "encouraging students to report to the committee a fellow-professor's classroom statements." We repeat the request we made in January to the Trustees, to recruit a committee unencumbered by conflicts of interest to initiate an objective investigation of:
1. Allegations of intimidation and humiliation of students and faculty
2. Allegations of breaches of academic integrity in curricula, course offerings, syllabi, and reading assignments.