Tag Archives: Columbia

Ahmadine-jabbing American Students

Central Connecticut State University is doing its part
for international diplomacy.  The campus
newspaper, The Central Reporter,
tells us that in late September CCSU professor of political science Ghassan
El-Eid brought a dozen CCSC students “to attend a dinner with Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran,” who was in New York for a meeting of the
U.N. General Assembly. 

President Ahmadinejad, of course, has had some practice
talking to American college students. Back in 2007, Columbia University
occasioned some controversy by inviting him to speak at its World Leaders
Forum.  Stinging from criticism of the
decision, Columbia’s president Lee Bollinger announced he would use the
occasion to annoy his guest.  As the Chronicle
of Higher Education
put it:

“Mr. Bollinger said he would
introduce the president by issuing “sharp challenges” to his denial of the
Holocaust, stated goal of wiping Israel off the map, support for terrorism,
defiance of sanctions stemming from Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and suppression
of human rights and civil liberties.”

Bollinger has long been a champion of vigorous free
speech (The Tolerant Society, 1986; Images of a Free Press, 1991; Eternally Vigilant, 2002; Uninhibited,
Robust, and Wide-Open
, 2010)–at least in principle.  His record in practice is a bit uneven.  In 2006, for example, after a group of
Columbia students violently interrupted and ended a
scheduled talk by members of the Minuteman Project, he had trouble finding
anything to say, but after a few months issued an anemic letter saying that
Columbia had investigated and taken appropriate steps to discipline the
students who had jumped the stage and assaulted the speaker.   He didn’t disclose the punishments, but
eventually it came out that those found guilty were merely given “warnings”
which were put on their transcripts temporarily, to be removed at the end of
2008.  One of the students, Monique Dols, gloated, “It’s a
light punishment; it’s a slap on the wrist. It’s a victory for free speech and
anti-racism.” 

When it came to Ahmadinejad’s visit to the World Leaders
Forum, however, Bollinger delivered what the Chronicle
described as “a blistering critique.” 
The event remains an odd milestone for the contemporary campus.  By inviting Ahmadinejad, Columbia University
bestowed a signal honor on one of the worst actors in contemporary world
politics, and then tried to reverse the meaning of the occasion by turning the guest
into the object of contumely.  Bollinger
earned both praise for being tough and criticism for being rude and undermining
“his own ideals of free speech and academic freedom.” 

Ahmadinejad turned Bollinger’s assault to his own
rhetorical advantage.  He began his
speech by reproving Bollinger.  The Washington
Post
‘s
transcript noted the applause: 

At the outset I want to
complain a bit from the person who read this political statement against me. In
Iran tradition requires that when we demand a person to invite to be a speaker
we actually respect our students and the professors by allowing them to make
their own judgment and we don’t think it’s necessary before this speech is even
given to come in with a series of claims…

(APPLAUSE)

… and to attempt in a
so-called manner to provide vaccination of some sort to our students and our
faculty.

I think the text read by the
dear gentleman here, more than addressing me, was an insult to information and
the knowledge of the audience here, present here. In a university environment
we must allow people to speak their mind, to allow everyone to talk so that the
truth is eventually revealed by all.

Certainly he took more than
all the time I was allocated to speak, and that’s fine with me. We’ll just
leave that to add up with the claims of respect for freedom and the freedom of
speech that’s given to us in this country.

Ahmadinejad, having presided over judicial murder of his
political opponents and bloody suppression of public protest of his regime, is
no one’s idea of a friend of free speech or academic freedom, but he is a
clever tactician.  Bollinger played to
his own audience of academics eager to hear a blustery put-down of a
tyrant.  But Ahmadinejad played to a
world stage as a man witnessing against the hypocrisy of the West. 

Which brings us back to the outing for Central
Connecticut State University students. 
By this point, the Iranian president has perfected his pitch.  He knows American college students have a
tenuous grasp of history and world politics and that their deepest longing is
to be “inclusive.” And he serves up exactly that.  The student newspaper reports that the
students described him as kind to everyone who asked a question,”  “not as radical as the western media portray
him,” and–of course–“inclusive.” 

This was too much for one of my board members, Jay
Bergman, who teaches history at Central Connecticut, and to whom I’m indebted
for this glimpse into the vacancy of the soul of American higher education.
Bergman recounted the affair in the Litchfield County Times, complete
with a Bartlett’s full of Ahmadinejad’s venomous declarations. 

Professor Ghassan El-Eid, who arranged the event, is
something of a campus celebrity. 
According to the university he is a political consultant for MSNBC, has
“granted numerous national TV and newspaper interviews,” and “has also been
heard on NPR and the Pacific Radio Network.” 
Which I suppose is a way of saying that the honor granted the
undergraduate Central Connecticut students to dine with the dictator was no accident.  

Jacques Barzun, 1907-2012

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“Full of years.” I
am not sure I know of anyone who better qualified for that Biblical epithet
than Jacques Barzun, who died last week at the magnificent age of 104.  Born in France in 1907, Barzun had been a
presence on the American intellectual and academic scene since the 1950s. From
his perch at Columbia University, where he collaborated with the critic Lionel
Trilling on a humanities course than deeply influenced a generation of
students, Barzun (like Trilling) was part of the intellectual conscience of his
age.  He was a public intellectual before
that role had been hollowed out by celebrity and the demotic faddishness of the
1960s. His scholarly work in subjects like French poetry consistently won plaudits.
Writing in 1991 about Barzun’s Essay on French Verse, the poet William Jay
Smith noted that  although “there have
been other treatises on French versification for the English reader,”  “none has been so thorough, so well reasoned,
so free of academic jargon, and so available as this one.”  “It is amazing,” Smith went on, “that
Professor Barzun, now in his eighties, should have produced so youthful and
vigorous a book, an objective study that is at the same time so personal a
document.” That sense of amazement regularly greeted Barzun’s work in the last
decades of his life.  He was the author
of more than 30 books, and his magnum opus, From
Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present
, wasn’t
published until 2000, when Barzun was 93.

Continue reading Jacques Barzun, 1907-2012

Penn Is Cutting Back on White Male Faculty

Columbia is not the only elite university
promoting exclusionary hiring in a big way. The University of Pennsylvania has
just announced
that it will spend $100 million over the next five years “on hiring and
retaining more diverse faculty members.”

George Leef asks a very
good question
: “Why does it cost so much money to simply
screen out all applicants who don’t have the ancestry or other characteristics
that make them diverse'”? In any event $100 million should buy a lot of
“diversity,” whatever the reason and in fact whatever “diversity” is.

Penn President Amy
Gutmann said that data is “not available to track our progress for … types of
diversity [other than racial and gender diversity], but that in no way
diminishes the importance of all types of diversity to Penn’s educational
mission and the vitality of its campus.”

Gutmann also said that “all of those who are
employed by Penn are asked to self-identify their race and gender after they
are hired.” Left unexplained was how Penn proposed to determine the race and
gender of the new “diversity” applicants before they were hired, which
you’d think would be necessary for a hiring program whose purpose is to
increase gender-based and pigmentary 
“diversity.” (See here for an almost humorous example from my experience of a department that did not
avoid buying
a pig in a poke
in attempting to make a “diversity” hire.)

Also left unexplained is how Penn can attempt
to hire and retain more “diverse” faculty members (defined whether wholly or
partly by race, gender, and ethnicity) without running afoul of its own
embarrassingly clear and forthright non-discrimination policies. Its Policy
of Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Nondiscrimination
,
for example, could hardly be more clear:

Penn is committed to
ensuring that all academic programs (except where age or sex are bona fide
occupational qualifications), including social and recreational programs, and
services are administered without regard to an individual’s protected-class
status. 

Penn is also
committed to ensuring that its personnel and other employment decisions are
made without regard to an individual’s protected-class status….

The blatant conflict between current practice
and stated principle is enough to have led at least one observer (and one I
know quite well) to comment on Preferences,
Principles, and Hypocrisy in Higher Education
.

In her pre-presidential scholarly career Penn
President Amy Gutmann wrote widely about race,
multiculturalism, and affirmative action
. Perhaps in one of
her now frequent
conversations with the press
she can explain how it is
possible for the university to make a special effort to hire and retain “more
diverse faculty members” — especially a $100 million effort — while studiously
treating all prospective and current employees “without regard” to their race,
gender, or ethnicity.

What Columbia Is Doing Is Illegal

Just
a few lawyerly thoughts to add to KC Johnson’s excellent post yesterday on Columbia University setting aside
$30 million to hire female and minority faculty.

It was clear enough all along that Columbia’s
hiring would be racially discriminatory, if not racially exclusive; and, as
Professor Johnson points out, even the pretext that sometimes a (politically
correct) white male might be eligible for hiring has apparently now been
abandoned. And of course this is an unfair, divisive, and corrupt policy.  But it should also be pointed out that it is
ILLEGAL to weigh race,  ethnicity, and
sex in hiring.

You
shouldn’t have to be a math whiz to understand that Title VI does not equal
Title VII.  President Bollinger of course
knows that, in its 2003 Grutter v.
Bollinger
(“That’s me!”) decision, the Supreme Court said that
universities could discriminate – to a limited degree – on the basis of race
and ethnicity in student admissions under, among other federal laws, Title
VI.  And so it is commonly assumed that
it must also be okay for universities to weigh race and ethnicity (and sex) in
the same “diversity”-driven way when they hire faculty.

Wrong. The Grutter
decision said nothing about Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which
covers employment and which has different language and jurisprudence than Title
VI.  The federal courts have never
recognized a “diversity” exception to Title VII, and are unlikely to. In fact,
when that issue was about to be decided by the Supreme Court in the late 1990s,
the civil-rights establishment hastily raised enough money to settle the case. More
on the problems with faculty hiring discrimination here.

And
don’t even think about making the “role model” argument in lieu of
the “diversity” argument.  When
you read about a university’s efforts to diversify its faculty, a school
official will frequently assert that these efforts are important because
minority or female students  need “role
models” (relatedly, it is often suggested that the faculty  should reflect the student body or even the
community’s general 
population).  This is a dubious argument as a policy
matter, but what is amazing is that the argument continues to be made even
though the
Supreme Court rejected it, as
legal matter, over
twenty-five years
ago
. 

N.B.  The Supreme Court has, alas, also
(mis)interpreted Title VII to be a less-than-categorical ban on discrimination,
but the politically correct exceptions it has carved out (for “manifest
imbalances” in 
“traditionally
segregated job categories”) do not apply, and are not cited by Columbia,
here.

Thirty Million for Race and Gender Hires at Columbia

In 2005, amidst the Harvard faculty’s ultimately successful effort to
purge President Larry Summers, Columbia president Lee Bollinger announced that
his university would launch its own “diversity” hiring initiative. Bollinger
committed $15 million to “add between 15 and 20
outstanding women and minority scholars to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences
over the next three to five years” and to “enhance efforts underway to change
the process and culture surrounding faculty searches, recruitment, hiring,
retention and promotion.”

The effort was coordinated by Columbia’s first
diversity vice provost, Jean Howard, who had managed to distinguish herself as
on the ideological fringe even among Columbia’s arts and sciences faculty. (A
Shakespeare scholar committed to the race/class/gender trinity, Howard’s
co-authored or co-edited books include Engendering a Nation: A Feminist
Account of Shakespeare’s English Histories
 and Marxist Shakespeares.)
Shortly before Bollinger promoted her to become the school’s diversity czar,
Howard had been in the news for
signing a petition calling
on Columbia “(1) to use its influence–political and financial–to encourage the
United States government to suspend its military aid and arms sales to Israel,
and (2) to divest from all companies that manufacture arms and other military
hardware sold to Israel, as well from companies that sell such arms and
military hardware to Israel.” Bollinger never explained why a figure who
exercised such grotesque misjudgment by signing the boycott petition was
appropriate to coordinate a major hiring initiative.

Continue reading Thirty Million for Race and Gender Hires at Columbia

A Questionable New Student

Tablet brings news of the unfortunate case of Sheherazad Jaafari, who was
admitted to Columbia‘s School of International
and Public Affairs (SIPA) despite her background as a public relations aide for
Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. The admission raises important questions of
standards and program policies.

Continue reading A Questionable New Student

Bollinger: Free Speech, Except on His Own Campus

In a recent interview, Columbia University president Lee Bollinger was asked whether the Hazelwood standard of student speech should be applied to colleges and universities. (Hazelwood gave high-school teachers and administrators broad authority to restrict student speech, in the name of advancing “legitimate pedagogical goals.”) Bollinger issued a strong caution:

Continue reading Bollinger: Free Speech, Except on His Own Campus

Should Police Monitor Muslim Student Groups?

Protests.jpg

Universities have been expressing concern and even outrage over Associated Press reports that the New York Police Department spent six months in 2006-2007 keeping tabs on Muslim Student Associations at 16 colleges in the northeast, including Columbia, Yale, Rutgers and NYU.

Some university presidents and spokesmen complained that the NYPD’s surveillance activities, conducted without clear evidence of criminal activity, could have a chilling effect on the rights of free speech and association on their campuses.

Richard Levin, president of Yale, said, “I am writing to state, in the strongest possible terms, that police surveillance based on religion, nationality, or peacefully expressed political opinions is antithetical to the values of Yale, the academic community, and the United States.”

But senior police officials say that the university spokesmen, including Levin, did not contact the department to hear its explanation of what law enforcement had done, and not done to keep New York and the surrounding area safe.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and his top spokesman, Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne, have repeatedly asserted that the department’s surveillance does not infringe on civil rights and liberties. The NYPD’s counter-terrorism program has also been adamantly defended by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Senator Charles Schumer, City Council Member Peter F. Vallone Jr., City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, and other traditional champions of free speech and civil liberties.

In an emailed statement, Browne called the criticism “knee-jerk reactions with little understanding of what actually transpired or why.” Browne gave the A.P. twelve specific cases of serious activities associated with the Muslim student groups, along with the not-so-secret observation that “some of the most dangerous Western Al Qaeda linked/inspired terrorists since 9/11 were radicalized and/or recruited at universities in Muslim Student Associations.” But the A.P. gave these cases and the NYPD’s account of its program short shrift.

Observing the Handschu Guidelines

In a speech Saturday at Fordham University, Commissioner Kelly said that the department’s initiative and the reports it produced were both legal and appropriate. He said all were in accordance with the so-called Handschu Guidelines, a set of rules developed–in settlement of a Black Panther suit in the 1970s–to protect people engaged in political protest.

And yes, Kelly added, the guidelines authorize police to “visit any place and attend any event that is open to the public” and “to conduct online search activity and to access online sites and forums on the same terms…as members of the public.” The NYPD was also authorized to “prepare general reports and assessments…for purposes of strategic or operational planning.”

A Federal judge had loosened the guidelines in 2002 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks at the department’s request. The guidelines, Kelly said, begin with a general principle: “In its effort to anticipate or prevent unlawful activity, including terrorist acts,” they state, “the NYPD must, at times, initiate investigations in advance of unlawful conduct.”

In an apparent swipe not only at the A.P., but also at the university presidents and spokesmen who have parroted the press agency’s allegations about the NYPD’s counter-terrorism investigations without bothering to verify the accuracy of their charges, Kelly said, “anyone who intimates that it is unlawful for the Police Department to search online, visit public places, or map neighborhoods has either not read, misunderstood, or intentionally obfuscated the meaning of the Handschu Guidelines.”

A “broad base of knowledge” was critically important to his department’s ability to investigate terrorism, he said. So police had attempted to determine “how individuals seeking to do harm might communicate or conceal themselves. Where might they go to find resources or evade the law? Establishing this kind of geographically-based knowledge saves precious time in stopping fast-moving plots,” Kelly said.

While “the vast majority” of Muslim student associations and their members turned out to the law-abiding, he said, the department had found “too many cases in which such groups were exploited. Some of the most violent terrorists we’ve encountered were radicalized or recruited at universities.”

Founded by Members of the Muslim Brotherhood

It also helps to know a little about the history of the Muslim Student Associations themselves and why terrorists would see them as natural recruiting grounds. According to Steven Emerson, who has tracked radical Islamist groups for years, the MSA was founded in the U.S. in 1963 by members of the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood, which recently won a resounding victory in Egypt’s post-revolution parliamentary elections, has long sought to create a global Islamic state governed by “sharia,” or Islamic law. While the group itself now claims to have renounced violence and embraced spreading Islam through democratic means, it has historically had a secret component operated with little or no transparency. And Muslim Brotherhood splinter groups, such as the far more militant Islamic Group and Islamic Jihad have boasted about their violent exploits, such as the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. Another spin-off, Hamas, the militant Palestinian Islamists who now rule Gaza, rejects Egypt’s peace treaties with Israel and remains on the U.S. terrorist list.

The department’s six-month review of MSAs of the tri-state area, Kelly said, uncovered some activity that appeared to be anything but benign. For example, in November of 2006, detectives learned that Siraj Wahaj, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, had spoken to students at the MSA of the University of Buffalo, apparently in search of recruits. In November, 2006, detectives learned that Jessie Curtis Morton, then a leader of the Islamic Thinkers Society whom it had been watching for some time, given his advocacy of violence, had spoken and tried to recruit followers at Stony Brook University. His own web site, Kelly said, had posted articles from “Inspire,” the on-line magazine published by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which included articles such as “How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.” Morton’s own website became a platform for “murderous ideology and a meeting place for various violent actors.”

A graduate of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Morton recently pled guilty to “using his position as a leader of Revolution Muslim Internet sites to conspire to solicit murder.” Specifically, Morton admitted encouraging others to kill the writers of South Park after they had depicted Mohammad dressed in a bear suit. Morton also urged violence against an artist who organized “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day” in reaction to the threats.

In April of 2007, detectives learned that Yousuf Khattab, Morton’s co-founder of Revolution Muslim, had also spoken at Brooklyn College’s Islamic Society, apparently trolling for recruits. Over the years, Kelly said, ten people who had been arrested on terrorism charges had been in contact with Revolution Muslim. Among them are Mohamed Alessa and Carlos Almonte, two New Jersey-based Muslims, whom the NYPD, working with the FBI and New Jersey law enforcement agencies, stopped at JFK en route to join Al Shabaab, the terrorist organization, in Somalia in 2010.

Kelly denied that his department had infiltrated MSAs throughout the Northeast as the A.P. has reported. When the 2006-2007 review had uncovered such potentially criminal or dangerous terrorism-related conduct, he said, the NYPD had opened a preliminary inquiry, or launched formal investigations, again, in accordance with the Handschu guidelines. Such investigations were regularly reviewed by department lawyers and discontinued unless the investigation reasonably indicated that an unlawful act had been, was being or would likely be committed, the police said. The NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence was required to issue written authorization whenever undercover officers or confidential informants have been used in such terrorism inquiries, the NYPD asserts.

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Some of the department’s concerns about some individuals associated with MSAs have clearly been borne out, Kelly and Brown have said. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas bomber recruited by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) who tried to blow up a Detroit bound jet in 2009 wearing explosive-lined underwear, had been the head of the Muslim Student Association at the University College of London. Anwar Al-Awlaki, the radical American Muslim cleric of Yemeni descent and former head of AQAP who was linked to a dozen far-flung plots and was killed by an American drone last year, was president of the MSA at Colorado State University in the mid-1990’s. Adam Gadahn, Al Qaeda’s English-language spokesman, was an active MSA member at the University of Southern California. Ramy Zamzam, prior to his conviction in Pakistan last year for attempting to join the Taliban and kill American troops, was president of the MSA’s Washington D.C. council. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who had plotted against New York City landmarks, was a member of the MSA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The list goes on.

Consider the case of Adis (aka, Mohammad) Medunjanin, whose terrorism trial is scheduled to begin in New York in early April. Medunjanin’s name may not ring any terrorism bells, but he stands accused of being a co-conspirator of a far more infamous would-be suicide bomber–Najibullah Zazi, the 27-year-old Afghan-American who has already pled guilty to planning suicide bombings in New York’s subway stations in September, 2009. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the plot against New York’s transit system which was blessed by Al Qaeda “one of the most serious terrorist threats to our nation since September 11th, 2001.”

“We Love Death”, Said the Former Wide Receiver

Medunjanin, who was arrested in January, 2010, was one of two of Zazi’s high school classmates in Flushing, Queens. According to government affidavits and documents filed by the government in the case, which include his own statements to the FBI, he traveled with Zazito Pakistan in 2008, where Qaeda recruited the three of them for the suicide “martyrdom” attack in New York. A Bosnian immigrant who came to America in 1994, he was naturalized in 2002, lived and worked in Flushing and played running back and wide receiver for his high school football team. At Queens College, he graduated with a major in economics in June, 2009. Working as a security guard for Stellar Management at the time of his arrest, Medunjanin led the FBI on a high-speed chase through Queens, during which he invoked the name of Allah in a 911 emergency call, telling a 911 dispatcher “We love death more than you love life,” the refrain he had learned from al-Qaeda trainers who were inspiring recruits like him to kill and commit suicide. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiring to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, receiving military-style training from al-Qaeda, conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, and providing material support to al-Qaida. If convicted, he faces life in prison.

In his recently published book on Islamist terrorist plots against the west, “The Al Qaeda Factor,” Mitchell D. Silber, the NYPD’s director of intelligence analysis, says that all too little is known about how Zazi, Medunjanin, and a third high-school friend and alleged co-conspirator, Zarein Ahmedzay, were radicalized. But Silber concludes that it wasn’t until Medunjanin got to Queens College that he became obviously religious, began growing a beard, and spending more time in a mosque and with Zazi.

‘So Religious’ He Was ‘Intimidating’

Medunjanin was known at Queens College as a “respected figure” in the Muslim Student Association, and a frequent visitor to its prayer room, where he worshiped “two or three times a week.” One associate said that while he was “highly regarded for his knowledge of Islam,” many considered him “so religious” as to be “intimidating.”

The NYPD’s interest in how Muslim students like Medunjanin were radicalized dates back to foiled and successful terrorism plots in Britain. In March, 2004, British authorities disrupted an Al Qaeda plot in the U.K. to kill as many people as possible and cause unprecedented disruption. The terrorists in the cell had already gotten about 1,300 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer that could be used to make bombs and had considered potential targets — a shopping mall, nightclub, the 4,200 mile network of underground, high-pressure gas pipelines across the country, a football stadium, the British Parliament, and a 12-page list of synagogues. Four of the seven conspirators were either university students, drop-outs, or graduates. At least one of them was an active member of Brunel University’s Islamic Society.

Though that plot was foiled, Britain was unlucky the next time. In July, 2005, coordinated bomb blasts ripped through London’s public transport system during the morning rush hour, killing 52 commuters and injuring 700. One of the suicide bombers was a recent graduate of Leeds Metropolitan University; another was a recent Leeds drop-out, and a third was a student at Thomas Danby College in Leeds.

In August of 2006, British and American authorities foiled another Al-Qaeda conspiracy to detonate liquid explosives aboard nine transatlantic flights from the U.K. to the U.S. and Canada. The plotters intended to detonate liquid explosives over the Atlantic Ocean. Four of the nine core plotters were either current university students, drop-outs or graduates from London Metropolitan University, City University, Brunel University, and Middlesex University. One was the former president of London Metropolitan University’s Islamic Society.

As early as 2005, terrorism literature was highlighting the danger of university campuses as a venue for Islamist radicalization and jihadi recruitment.

Dr. Quintan Wiktorowicz, President Barack Obama’s Senior Director for Global Engagement and charged with countering violent extremism on the National Security Council, published a book that year, “Radical Islam Rising.” The book highlighted the importance of the college campus as a radicalization and recruiting ground based on his interviews with hundreds of British militants. “This [young university students] is the dominant recruitment pool for al-Muhajiroun,” he warned.

The NYPD quickly sensed that the trend was not limited to Britain. Two New Yorkers arrested in connection with the 2004 plot, Mohammed Junaid Babar and Syed Fahad Hashmi, both of whom pled guilty to Al Qaeda-related terrorism offences, had been radicalized to militant Islam through their involvement in university-based activities in the New York branch of al-Muhajiroun. This group, as well as Babar and Hashmi, actively recruited at Brooklyn College and Queens College MSA’s.

Concerned about such radicalization trends and Al Qaeda’s targeting of colleges and universities as recruiting grounds, which the NYPD highlighted in a 2007 report on the growing threat of “homegrown” Islamist threat taking root in the country, Commissioner Kelly wanted to understand more fully what was occurring at local universities through an open source search initiative. Beginning in November of 2006, the NYPD’s intelligence division spent six months conducting internet searches and other reviews of publicly available websites for universities and colleges in and around New York City to determine if radicalization and recruitment were occurring on university campuses, and if so, to what extent. Based on these reviews, NYPD officials say, intelligence analysts cataloged what they found in 23 bi-weekly reports. Specifically, they searched for speakers, conferences and events at MSAs that might support terrorism or provide a recruiting venue among potentially vulnerable students for such known extremist Islamist groups as al-Muhajiroun, the Islamic Thinkers Society, and Revolution Muslim. To ensure that nothing was missed, “more rather than less information” was cataloged, one NYPD official said.

NYPD officials said that most of the speakers, conferences and events held at MSA’s in the tri-state area were “non-threatening in nature.”As a result, the review ended in May, 2007. Police say that none of the information contained in the weekly reports was entered into any law enforcement databases.

The university spokesmen who criticized the NYPD seem to have accepted the A.P.’s assertions about the nature of the NYPD’s monitoring on faith. None of them ventured to explain why they had not contacted the police for comment before speaking out.

Joseph A. Brennan, the Associate Vice President for University Communications at the University of Buffalo, had previously stated that the university had not been contacted by the NYPD prior to the monitoring and “did not provide any information to the NYPD.” If asked for such cooperation, the statement added, the university “would not voluntarily cooperate with such a request.”

“The university had no reason to doubt the accuracy of the Associated Press report,” vice president Brennan said in an email, when asked why it had assumed that the press account was accurate.

Nor did New York University attempt to verify the accuracy of the A.P. account before stating that it “stands in fellowship with its Muslim students in expressing our community’s concerns over these activities.” John H. Beckman, a university spokesman, also declined to say what NYU would do if the police sought its cooperation in a terrorism case. The university, he said, would not comment on a “hypothetical.”

Columbia president Lee C. Bollinger reiterated his university’s criticism. “While we appreciate the daunting responsibility of keeping New York safe, law enforcement officials should not be conducting such surveillance of a particular group of students or citizens without any cause to suspect criminal conduct,” the statement said. Through a spokesman, he, too, declined to discuss what Columbia would do if asked for cooperation with a police terrorism investigation. Columbia, the spokesman said, “does not answer hypothetical questions about security matters.”

Four College Buzzwords and a Shameless Plug

These days, the agenda of the academic elite can be boiled down to a few liberal buzzwords. The most important buzzword is “diversity,” which is usually nothing more than a code word for reverse discrimination and skin-deep identity politics. Recently, at Northwestern, they held a “race caucus” where 150 people gathered to discuss their experiences with discrimination on campus. Students then gathered at the school’s House of African-American Affairs to form a new group called “The Collective.” It was an ironic venue for the first meeting since the purpose of the group is to encourage “desegregation” on campus. In keeping with this ironic approach to fighting racial injustice, Columbia University president Lee Bollinger recently celebrated Martin Luther King’s dream of racial equality by promoting institutionalized racism in the form of racial preferences in college admissions.

The second item on the left’s checklist is “activism,” by which they mean recruiting your kids for various left-wing political causes. For example, professor Joel Rogers at the University of Wisconsin sent an email asking his students to work on his private political project called ALICE, where volunteers could aid him in “identifying, supporting and assisting 10,000 progressive local elected officials.” Over at Penn, they are hosting an anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction conference this month with an address by Noura Erakat–a woman who refers to suicide bombers as those “fighting for their freedom and liberation.”

A third buzzword on the left’s checklist is “tolerance,” a value paradoxically enforced by silencing those who disagree with the prevailing liberal orthodoxy. Robert Klein Engler–a conservative professor at Roosevelt University–was fired after telling a politically incorrect joke that offended someone in his class. The university called him to appear before an investigatory committee, but refused to even inform him what the charges against him were. Meanwhile the University of Michigan was busy planning an alumni field trip to the communist dictatorship of Cuba, where, presumably, sophisticated alumni, who swear by the principle of academic freedom, could gain appreciation for authentic Cuban culture by interacting with locals pre-screened by the Cuban government. They could then move on to relax on sunny beaches pre-selected for American visitors by Fidel and Co. Nothing signals a support for tolerance like vacationing in a land where even leaving the country is a privilege forbidden to everyday citizens.

A fourth buzzword on the list is “open-mindedness,” which means embracing moral relativism and occasionally submitting to weird sexual agendas in the classroom. At Western Nevada College, students were instructed to masturbate twice as often as normal, and to report detailed accounts of their sexual lives. Female students were told, write down “your views of your breasts and vulva,” and were given the instruction: “Your orgasms. Draw them!” At the University of Winchester in England, professor Eric Anderson claims that it is natural for men to cheat on their partners. Those who practice monogamy, he says, are subjecting themselves to “socially-compelled sexual incarceration.” After studying these stimulating topics, and learning to embrace the total liberation of the libido, students may find it informative to contemplate social factors behind a recent study by Dr. Maura L. Gillison of Ohio State University, in which she reports that 7% of U.S. teens and adults now carry the sexually-transmitted, cancer-causing HPV virus in their mouths.

Here Comes the Plug

The above stories might seem alarming, but as editor of The College Fix (you are now passing the shameless plug)–a campus news site that features original, student-reported news from around the nation–these are the kinds of stories I encounter every day. In fact, all of these stories were culled from just the last few weeks’ worth of articles on our site. It’s no secret that the left dominates academia. But it’s only by reading the details that one realizes how bad things really are.

Students come to us to share their stories. They tell us about the latest wacky diversity agenda on campus, or the latest scheme to demonize capitalism. They report when college administrators try to suppress free speech or undermine student groups whose beliefs don’t mesh with the prevailing liberal groupthink. Their stories confirm that those entrusted with training up the leaders of tomorrow are, oftentimes, doing a lousy job.

When we debate the value of a college education, we often speak in terms of high tuition costs, escalating levels of college debt, and uncertain unemployment prospects. But no debate about the value of college is complete without a discussion of values. What colleges are teaching is at least as important is how much we are paying them to teach.

The political indoctrination and moral assault that students are subjected to at most schools–that’s the real rip-off. It’s bad enough that you may have to pay a small fortune to send your kids to college. Worse yet when you consider that the ideology pounded into their brains for four years may well contradict all the principles you hold most dear.

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Update: This article originally attributed a quote to Penn BDS speaker Ali Abunimah, which should have been attributed to another scheduled speaker at the Penn conference, Noura Erakat. We regret the mistake.

Sorry, Charlotte, I Only Wish I Were Wrong About Columbia

In her thoughtful and intelligent critique of my case against Columbia University, Charlotte Allen agrees with my basic concern when she writes that what’s wrong at Columbia is “the university’s continued support of professors who have turned their classrooms into bully pulpits for preaching religious and ethnic hatred.”  She disagrees, however, with whether OCR should (also) look into whether the departmental chair’s conduct has subjected at least one Jewish student to unlawful discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Charlotte makes one strong point:  ironically enough, the chair’s advice may have been factually correct, in the sense that a reasonable Jewish student might be made to feel objectively offended or “uncomfortable” by what transpires in Prof. Massad’s classroom.  Since a prior internal investigation of Massad’s alleged anti-Semitism was dismissed by many observers as a “whitewash,” we will not know how right the departmental chair was absent a full, impartial investigation such as OCR could provide.  To say that the advisor may be right factually is not however to concede that she was correct legally or ethically.

Continue reading Sorry, Charlotte, I Only Wish I Were Wrong About Columbia

You’re Wrong about Columbia’s ‘Steering,’ Ken

I disagree with Kenneth L. Marcus’s post here approving the Education Department’s pending investigation of Columbia University for allegedly “steering” a Jewish student at Barnard College away from a course taught by Joseph Massad. While I’m in sympathy with Marcus’s efforts to show up Massad for the unreconstructed ideologue and tiresome non-scholar that he is, I’m dubious about the Education Department’s apparent aim of expanding the authority of its Office for Civil Rights into the terrain of student advising. Soon, I fear, we’ll be reading about Education Department probes involving female students supposedly “steered” into art history instead of engineering, and black students “steered” into black studies instead of business administration. Do we really want the federal government–not to mention litigation-hungry lawyers–looking over the shoulders of college professors who have taken on advising chores as they attempt to fit undergraduate students with courses that match their interests and abilities?

Continue reading You’re Wrong about Columbia’s ‘Steering,’ Ken

“Steering” Orthodox Jews Away from Massad at Columbia

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has just opened a new investigation into anti-Semitism at Columbia University.  At this author’s urging, OCR is looking into whether a Jewish Barnard student was unlawfully “steered” away from a course taught by controversial Columbia Professor Joseph MassadMassad has been accused of anti-Semitism before.  This case though has a twist.  The basic allegation is that a Barnard student was unlawfully “steered” away from Massad’s class by a departmental chair, Dr. Rachel McDermott, who urged her to study ancient Israel instead.  The chair insisted that the student, who is an Orthodox Jew, would be made to feel uncomfortable if she took Prof. Massad’s class.

Continue reading “Steering” Orthodox Jews Away from Massad at Columbia

Bollinger Bows to the Diversity Radicals

Even the most jaded observer of the contemporary academy can sometimes be stunned. Consider, for instance, an article last week in the New York Times, detailing faculty unrest toward Columbia president Lee Bollinger, on grounds that Bollinger is . . . insufficiently committed to diversity.

Bollinger, of course, presided over the University of Michigan’s aggressive (and ultimately successful) defense of using racial preferences in the admissions process. And as Columbia president, he’s exhibited almost no skepticism about the diversity-obsessed status quo. At the student level, the Times reports that almost 15 percent of Columbia’s 2010-11 freshman class is black, a percentage higher than would result from a “diversity” policy that simply used a quota system based on the current U.S. population.

Continue reading Bollinger Bows to the Diversity Radicals

Columbia’s Ongoing Battle against ROTC

At Columbia, how is it that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” could inspire such heated debate among students? The average student opposing the return of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps to Columbia University might be fairly described as a left-wing “radical,” while the university’s tiny conservative contingent is surely among the program’s supporters. Still, Columbia’s ROTC advocates are not much like Glenn Beck; one of their main organizers has admitted his hatred for Fox News and his love for National Public Radio.
For ROTC’s opponents, the military represents a threat to academic freedom, and its flaws are reasons to keep it at arm’s length. For its supporters, ROTC represents service to one’s nation, while the military’s flaws are in fact reasons to engage it.
With DADT’s repeal, Columbia’s University Senate promptly commissioned a task force to examine whether ROTC should be invited back to campus. They took a survey of students recently in the program (currently, Columbians in ROTC must commute to Fordham) and organized three public hearings. At the second hearing, Anthony Maschek, an Army veteran who took nine bullets in Iraq, was jeered and called “racist” in the middle of his remarks. His offense? He told anti-ROTC students that the U.S. military protects them from men in “other parts of the world [who] are plotting to kill you right now. . . . These people seriously are trying to kill you. They hate America, they hate you.” At the next hearing, one ROTC opponent derided Maschek’s statement as “one-dimensional.” Another opponent explained to the Columbia Spectator why they jeered: “Maschek’s remarks implied that Iraq has attacked the United States, and that Iraqis are thus among the people who want to kill Americans. But since Iraq did not attack the U.S. on September 11 or since then . . . Maschek’s statement seemed to imply that all Muslims want to kill Americans.”

Continue reading Columbia’s Ongoing Battle against ROTC

The Troubling Incident at Columbia

With “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repealed, Columbia University has quickly moved to re-examine whether it should once again formally participate in the Reserve Officers Training Corps program. At the second of three public hearings designed to gather input from the Columbia community, freshman Anthony Maschek calmly made his case for returning ROTC to campus, only to be jeered and called “racist” by other students. The incident might not have affected the larger debate, but for the fact that Maschek is also a nine-year Army veteran who received a Purple Heart after taking nine bullets in Iraq. After national media picked up the story, Columbia just as quickly moved to issue a press release condemning heckling, while also asserting that “the hearings as a whole have been considerate and thoughtful.” (It has posted an audio clip of Maschek’s testimony, including the jeers, but has not acknowledged him by name or apologized.) Perhaps more surprisingly, several pro-ROTC student campaigners have since attested to the school’s commitment to civil dialogue; for example, one veteran student told the Columbia Spectator that “the students who heckled Anthony . . . are not representative, not only of the anti-ROTC movement, but of the University.” Maschek himself agreed: “the atmosphere here has been supportive despite the actions of a very small minority of the town hall participants.” Maschek was heckled immediately after informing anti-ROTC students that the U.S. military protects them from men in “other parts of the world [who] are plotting to kill you right now . . . These people seriously are trying to kill you. They hate America, they hate you.” One of those students later explained to the Spectator why they jeered: “Maschek’s remarks implied that Iraq has attacked the United States, and that Iraqis are thus among the people who want to kill Americans. But since Iraq did not attack the U.S. on September 11 or since then . . . Maschek’s statement seemed to imply that all Muslims want to kill Americans.” It is difficult to decide which is more troubling: the apparent denial that some men really are working to kill Americans, or the bizarre inference that Maschek meant “all Muslims want to kill Americans.” Insofar as they hold such beliefs, Columbia’s anti-ROTC students betray a weak grasp on both reality and logic. Columbia is holding its final public hearing tonight. One hopes that everyone participating will conduct himself with civility—and reason.

A Feeble Statement from the AAUP

A few years ago, in the midst of the controversy over inappropriate faculty behavior in Columbia’s Middle East Studies department, more than 100 professors, led by former provost Jonathan Cole, signed a document demanding that the Columbia administration defend the faculty from outside criticism—without even determining the merits of that criticism. This approach essentially redefined academic freedom as the freedom from outside criticism of academics who represent the majority view on campus. The draft document on academic freedom just released by the AAUP essentially seeks to codify the redefinition of academic freedom urged by the Columbia faculty. It condemns the activities of, among other people, “bloggers,” while also seeming to fault students for “report[ing] and publiciz[ing] offending classroom statements” by faculty members. In short, the Brandeis philosophy—sunlight is the best disinfectant—must not be allowed to apply to higher education. The AAUP document pays lip service to the idea that faculty members themselves might behave inappropriately: “For example, the denial of promotion or tenure by liberal academics to a conservative academic, or the reverse [presumably at a religious institution?], if based on disagreement with the applicant’s views rather than on a scholarly evaluation of the applicant’s professional competence and performance, constitutes political intrusion regardless of whether persons outside the academic community were involved.” But the organization is most concerned to stop in their tracks those who have deigned to criticize the actions of the current academic majority. This approach is problematic for three reasons. First, it presumes that outside criticism can be perceived as ispo facto bad faith, given the existence of mechanisms for dealing with threats to academic freedom from inside the academy. But even the document’s authors concede that internal threats to academic freedom exist (even as they go out of their way to minimize the problem), and thereby at the very least imply that the mechanisms for dealing with internal threats to academic freedom have broken down. Continue reading A Feeble Statement from the AAUP

No Labels = No Thinking, and No Fighting for Principles Either

no%20labels.bmpWhat a different scene at Columbia University in the last month of 2010 from the glory days of the 1960s, when student radicals took over the campus! On December 13th, mild-mannered students with pleasant smiles nodded in agreement with establishment politicians and political strategists at the “No Labels” conference. As political analysts have pointed out, the repeated pleading for “bipartisanship” and for moving not “left or right” but “forward” was an attempt to obscure the losing message of Democrats and nervous Republicans in the 2010 elections.
But the phrases of “moving forward” and “compromise” were refrains in a song familiar to more than 300 college students from across the country gathered on campus. At the microphone, these students demonstrated their docile acceptance of the “no labels” pedagogy of “consensus-building,” “conflict resolution,” and “civil discourse.” When explaining “why” they were there, they echoed the words of the organizers and said they were tired of “hyper-partisanship.” Then they “pledged” to “speak out against this hyper-partisanship” because “a win for one party is not necessarily a loss for another party.” Sometimes making their statements with the timorous inflection of a question mark at the end, they raised—for some observers, at least– the issue of intellectual decline, and spiritual and psychological decline as well.
Like many of my college students, these students displayed a reluctance to declare anyone–or any idea–a “winner.” The notion of there being a losing side, whether in wiffle ball or a mock UN debate, has in effect been outlawed over the last few decades. In part this numb recessiveness is the work of campus “mommies,” freshman composition teachers who instruct their classes to shy away from assertion and real debate.
Freshman composition was once known for teaching young adults how to defend a conviction with logic and evidence. Feminists saw the inherently competitive nature of this enterprise, and sought to replace it with the “maternal presence in the classroom,” an Orwellian term in circulation at the University of Georgia in the 1990s, where I taught as a graduate teaching assistant. At the time, the English department, known as the last hold-out from the pernicious influence of the various schools of postmodernism, was being taken over by feminists who sought to root out the patriarchy in all its manifestations—including the freshman essay. The “maternal presence” trickled down into our annual fall orientation sessions where we were directed to implement the new strategies as “facilitators.”

Continue reading No Labels = No Thinking, and No Fighting for Principles Either

Summer School on World Threats

nuke.jpgMatthew J. Connelly, a historian at Columbia, is busy preparing for a second summer of scholarly doom. Last May, he presided over “Nuclear Summer,” an intensive 12-week course of study, research and collaborative writing about coping with nuclear proliferation and various nuclear scenarios. Next week, he is scheduled to announce that his 2011 summer course, also for a limited number of graduate students and undergrads from around the country, will focus on “Pandemics and Global Public Health.”
The continuation of his “total immersion” summer course at Columbia is a victory of sorts. Connelly conceived the course and sold the idea to Roger Hertog, a New York businessman, chairman emeritus of the Manhattan Institute, and a philanthropist who last month won the Philanthropy Roundtable’s William E. Simon leadership Prize for innovative giving aimed at advancing the power of ideas. Writing in the Philanthropy Roundtable’s magazine, Philanthropy, Bret Stephens estimated that Mr. Hertog has invested well over $140 million in such philanthropic ventures.
Hertog’s Foundation agreed to underwrite a two-year, $250,000 gift so that Connelly could experiment with a summer “total immersion” course focused on some of the greatest challenges confronting the U.S. and the planet.

Continue reading Summer School on World Threats

The Sad Transformation of the American University

This is the slightly edited introduction to the author’s new collection of essays, Decline and Revival in Higher Education ( Transaction Publishers ). Dr. London is president of the Hudson Institute, one of the founders of the National Association of Scholars, and the former John M. Olin Professor of the Humanities at New York University.
book_reg_B84A0192-DB43-AEA5-19F4316BB9740083.jpgWhen I entered Columbia College in 1956, the college had a deep commitment to liberal opinion. Father and son Van Doren (Mark and Charles), the recently appointed Dan Bell, my adviser named Sam Huntington, the legendary Lionel Trilling, and a brilliant lecturer named Amitai Etzioni graced the campus and, more or less, leaned left at the time, albeit over the years several had their political orientation change. Yet there was one constant: These professors eschewed orthodoxies, notwithstanding the fact that in a poll of faculty members Adlai Stevenson won the 1956 presidential sweepstakes hands down.
Different views were welcome. Controversy was invited. “Political correctness” had not yet entered the academic vocabulary, nor had it insinuated itself into debate and chastened nonconformists. I was intoxicated by the sheer variety of thought. For me this smorgasbord of ideas had delectable morsels at each setting. It was at some moment in my senior year that I became enchanted with the idea of an academic career.

Continue reading The Sad Transformation of the American University

Sustainability—More Cash and a Softer Side

With great fanfare Columbia University recently announced that starting this fall it will offer an undergraduate major in the new interdisciplinary field of “sustainable development.” That makes Columbia the first Ivy League school to offer such a major, which sounds as though it ought to be a practical mix of hard science, “green” technology, and tough-minded economics joining forces to combat Third World poverty without polluting or deforesting the Third World in the process. In fact, however, undergraduate sustainability majors on many campuses tend to be light on science but heavy on ideology. The reigning ideologies can range from doomsday scenarios of out-of-control global warming and plummeting agricultural yields to, as is likely to be the case at Columbia, the controversial and expensive foreign aid-based economic theories of Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia’s Earth Institute, the sponsor of the university’s new sustainable-development major.

College majors in sustainability are all the rage these days—as well they might be, since the federal government (thanks to Congress’s passage of the Higher Education Sustainability Act in 2008) now makes grants available to institutions of higher learning “to integrate sustainability curricula in all programs of instruction, particularly in business, architecture, technology, manufacturing, engineering, and science programs.” Brand-new majors in sustainability have popped up on more than two dozen college campuses during the last few years. The schools now offering the major include small private liberal arts colleges and the public Arizona State University, which operates a School of Sustainability, and Appalachian State University in North Carolina, which offers four different sustainable-development majors plus a minor. In the fall of 2009 Johns Hopkins University began offering both a major and a minor in “global environmental change and sustainability” whose course offerings are somewhat similar to those proposed for Columbia.

Money is also pouring into sustainable-development programs at the graduate level. The MacArthur Foundation just announced that it has made grants totaling $5.6 million to ten universities worldwide to establish new two-year master’s-degree programs in “development practice” at 10 universities in eight different countries. The grants are part of a $16 million investment by MacArthur for “the creation of new Master’s programs in sustainable development practice,” as MacArthur’s press release states. MacArthur hopes to see the recipient universities—now totaling 20—churn out as many as 400 graduates by 2013.

Continue reading Sustainability—More Cash and a Softer Side

Double Standards: Fresno and Columbia

Early February featured an interesting development from Fresno. Students of Bradley Lopez, a health instructor at Fresno Community College, claimed that Lopez was using class time to spread his personal anti-gay views. Lopez denies the allegation, asserting that all of his comments fell “within the scope of health science.”
The students’ concerns attracted the attention of the local ACLU branch. In a six-page letter to FCC administrators, ACLU staff attorney Elizabeth Gill criticized Lopez for presenting “as ‘fact’ and ‘science’ inaccurate information that reflects his own highly discriminatory and religiously-based views.” According to Gill’s letter, students in Lopez’s class reported him using a slide asserted that counseling or “hormonal therapy” were the “recommended treatment” for homosexuality. Neither academic freedom nor the 1st amendment, the ACLU letter maintained, applied to professors who present “factually inaccurate information.”
The Gill letter also suggested that Lopez’s inaccurate remarks might create a “hostile environment” for gay and lesbian students on campus.
The ACLU’s “hostile environment” claim strikes me as very troubling. There’s no evidence that Lopez punished any gay or lesbian students, or that he retaliated against students who failed to accept his anti-gay views. There’s no evidence, in fact, that Lopez ever did anything inappropriate to any student. Surely, for instance, the ACLU wouldn’t suggest that a professor opposing racial preferences in admissions produced a “hostile environment”?

Continue reading Double Standards: Fresno and Columbia

Is Academic Freedom In Trouble?

The president of the University of Chicago, Robert J. Zimmer, spoke at Columbia University on October 21st on the topic, “What Is Academic Freedom For?”
Minding the Campus invited several academics and other observers of the campus scene to post brief reactions to President Zimmer’s remarks. The comments are from Peter Sacks, Erin O’Connor and Maurice Black, Adam Kissel, John K. Wilson and Candace de Russy.

Continue reading Is Academic Freedom In Trouble?

Massad Got Tenure (Don’t Tell Anyone)

Fourteen Columbia professors are protesting the university’s apparent decision to award tenure to Joseph A. Massad, a controversial anti-Israel professor of Arab studies.
The professors are from the schools of law, business and public health. They expressed their concern in a five-page letter to the incoming Provost, Claude M. Steele. The letter asserts that the university’s decision to guarantee Massad a life-time teaching post “appears to have violated” Columbia’s own rules, thus raising profound questions about the university’s academic integrity. The university’s administration, weirdly, still refuses to confirm or deny that Massad won tenure, but yesterday the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures department let the cat out of the bag—it announced a beginning-of-term party next week congratulating Massad on gaining tenure.
This week Provost Steele belatedly issued a polite, noncommittal response. In a four-paragraph “Dear Colleagues” letter to the fourteen professors, Steele, a former Stanford psychologist, says he would “welcome” a meeting to discuss their concerns. After he learns more about Columbia’s tenure process, Steele writes, he may “want to make some changes in our procedures.” But nowhere does he state that Massad has, in fact, been awarded tenure. Nor does he acknowledge that the professors raise deeply troubling concerns, that if true, go to the heart of what many regard as the core of a university’s integrity.

Continue reading Massad Got Tenure (Don’t Tell Anyone)

A Look At Real Diversity

I have been teaching a class at Columbia on Western Civilization since September.
The class is highly diverse. By that, I mean that among the 21 students there is an Orthodox Jew, a child of Russian immigrants, and a couple of Korean-Americans. Plus a Chinese-American. And one of them grew up in France; just why she has no accent I have never been quite sure, but culturally she is more French than American. One student is even seven feet tall. And Catholic.
Yes, I have had four black students, and a few Latino ones. They’re “diverse” too.
This has been a lesson for me in the benefits of diversity in education. Back in my days as a Berkeley linguistics prof, I was teaching linguistics, a scientific field in which there was little coherent concept of a “diverse” contribution: subordinate clauses have no ethnicity.
But here is a class on the intellectual heritage of our civilization. This is the kind of class that fans of racial preferences in university admissions tell us will be enriched by diversity.
And I heartily agree that discussion in my class would have been much less interesting and rewarding if all of the students were upper-middle-class white kids from the suburbs. If Columbia has created this vibrant mixture by attending to more than grades and test scores in composing their student body, then I applaud them mightily. I was in love with my students after a week and a half and will miss them immensely.
However, my year’s experience has given no demonstration whatsoever of the benefit of diversity as we are supposed to tacitly understand it: i.e. the presence of black and Latino students alone.

Continue reading A Look At Real Diversity

Question Not The Columbia Underwear Party

A Columbia Spectator editorial recently criticized the allocation of resources and publicity for the school’s Queer Awareness Month activities. Here’s the nub of their editorial:

..the organization largely focused on promoting events that emphasized sex over awareness. The Genderf**k party—where attendees donned only underwear—bore more of a resemblance to a raucous First Friday Dance than a laid-back affair where people could casually discuss sexuality.
If Queer Awareness Month’s events are meant to raise awareness of LGBT issues, then QuAM has emphasized the wrong events in its schedule. Though parties like Genderf**k may be a roaring good time, they can also alienate students uncomfortable with broadcasting their sexuality. Further, such openly sexual revelry can discourage members of the straight community from attending. Instead, the group should focus on promoting the month’s educational events with the same energy as it advertises its parties.

This produced a number of letters to the Spectator, and, yesterday, a protest of some 20 students outside their offices. The Spectator reports:

“We came out to swiftly and powerfully get the message both to the campus and Spectator how offensive and incorrect the article was and how disappointing it was that it came from a staff editorial and not a submission,” said Everyone Allied Against Homophobia Co-President Ira Stup, GS/JTS ’09.
The protest, which was coordinated by an informal coalition of LGBT students and advertised by several related groups, took place on Broadway below Spectator’s 112th Street office. Participants held a large rainbow flag, distributed pink paper triangles on which messages could be written, and conducted a brief “kiss-in.”
….
Many members of QuAM, CQA, and associated groups felt that the editorial was heteronormative and did not sufficiently take into account the month’s full scope of programming and events.
“We have just as much right to dance with boys if we’re boys or girls if we’re girls,” QuAM Co-Coordinator Joseph Daniels, CC ’09, said. “We don’t have to tone ourselves down.”

There were some errors in the editorial, and it’s understandable that the group took offense to them. Most revealing though, are the complaints, found in the protest and in letters to the Spectator, taking offense that the more explicit activities (the “Genderf**k party”) were even criticized. One letter to the Spectator suggested that their editorial “demonizes the exploration of queer sexuality and gender expression” arguing that “self acceptance and celebration are key components, communally and personally, in overcoming the paralyzing impact of LGBT sexual shaming.” This is a familiar line of argument whenever LGBT events are criticized for their explicitness. Queer groups argue that conventions of propriety or tradition are merely heterosexual constraints upon the free expression of their identity. In 2006, for one, when an LGBT group was criticized for chalking genitalia around the Swarthmore campus, they justified their effort as a “questioning of heteronormative culture.” When can this explanation fail? What party can’t it justify? It’s amazing, in this case, to see the Spectator’s advocacy of educational efforts brushed aside as “offensive.” Yet if an LGBT group decides that underwear parties are an essential element of an oppressed minority’s identity (and worth spending student fees on), who will argue with them? Typically no one. Encomiums to the Spectator for an uncharacteristically sensible editorial on the matter; let’s hope there’s not a retraction in the offing.