Old Joe Pulitzer, call your office. The New York Times admitted yesterday that Columbia University maneuvered it last week into an inappropriate deal on coverage of the university's faculty committee report on allegations against professors critical of Israel. It seems that in return for an early look at the report, the newspaper agreed that its writer would not seek reaction from other interested parties - namely, the students who had complained. Conceded the editor of the Times in a note printed in the paper yesterday: "Without a response from the complainants, the article was incomplete; it should not have appeared in that form."
Well, the Times's editor, Bill Keller, is a mensch. We tend to think that the president of Columbia, Lee Bollinger, is, too. But at what was supposed to be the moment of truth in this whole sordid affair, the instinct of the Columbia administration was to manipulate one of the city's leading journalistic institutions into publishing an incomplete story by shutting out of it comment from the very students the university is supposedly trying to protect. The university also tried to get such a deal out of its own student newspaper, the Spectator, but, contrary to our report last week, the editor of the Spectator denies it made the agreement the Times made. We're glad to hear it.
Columbia's effort to manipulate the Times's coverage was unfolding even as the university was getting ready to hand out over Mr. Bollinger's signature what are widely considered to be journalism's highest prizes, the Pulitzers. It seems the university that sets itself up as the arbiter of journalistic standards, housing one of the most prestigious graduate schools of journalism in the country, this same university imposed a deal on the Times that resulted in a journalistic account that was less than complete. In fact, the Times's front-page report was slanted, including a quote from one of the anti-Israel professors, Joseph Massad, but not a single reaction from a pro-Israel student.
Mr. Massad may deny saying to a pro-Israel student, "Get out of my classroom." But now Columbia's administration has been caught saying, in effect, to the pro-Israel students, "Get out of my news article." Mr. Bollinger is a widely admired First Amendment scholar who is constantly trumpeting free speech as a value. What was he thinking? A legal adviser to the committee that issued the report on the anti-Israel professors, Floyd Abrams, is one of our finest First Amendment lawyers. Where was he? And where, oh where are the trustees? Aren't they the authority that should finally be asking why the administration of their university would try to prevent pro-Israel students on their campus from having their voices heard in a Times story?