Tag Archives: Jewish

Where the White/Jewish Category Leads

A few weeks ago, controversy erupted after a diversity
report
prepared by two CUNY committees identified a “White/Jewish” category among
the university’s faculty. (There was and is absolutely no reason to believe that
this new designation reflected the thinking of either Chancellor Matthew
Goldstein or the Board of Trustees, nor was there any reason to believe, based
on their longtime records, that either Goldstein or the current Board ever
would have implemented a policy based on the designation.) The “White/Jewish” designation
nonetheless attracted a negative editorial in the Post and a good deal of negative commentary elsewhere.

Continue reading Where the White/Jewish Category Leads

Affirmative Action Starts to Unravel

Asian.jpgListen closely and you can hear the sound of “diversity” crumbling, this week mixed with laughter over the news that the City University of New York has created two more official diversity groups–“white/Jewish” and “Italian-Americans.”

Critics of the new Jewish category claim that “the creation of a label for Jewish professors could be used to limit their job opportunities.” So, what else is new? Creating labels for blacks, Hispanics, Italians, etc., also no doubt limits job opportunities for Jews.

Actually, CUNY’s newly-minted effort to include Jews (but not
Muslims, Irish, Pentecostal-Americans, etc.) has a close relationship
with the issues being presented to the Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin–and
not simply because the CUNY policy reveals so glaringly the
incoherence at the core of the “diversity” justification for
preferential treatment.

Continue reading Affirmative Action Starts to Unravel

New Diversity Groups at CUNY: ‘White/Jewish’ and ‘Italian-American’

It’s “diversity” in higher education gone mad: An embarrassed City University of New York system (CUNY) yesterday hastily denied a report that it had set up a separate “minority” designation for its Jewish faculty. As CUNY professors joked about “yellow stars” for their Jewish colleagues and Jewish Press columnist Yori Yanover wrote that CUNY’s chancellor, Matthew Goldstein, had “stepped into a gigantic mound of odiferous matter,” a university spokesman declared (in an interview with a reporter for the Jewish Telegraph Agency news service) that no “new special category for Jewish faculty has been created.”

Continue reading New Diversity Groups at CUNY: ‘White/Jewish’ and ‘Italian-American’

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

Facing Down Anti-Semitism on Campus

At long last an attempt is bring made to curtail blatant anti-Semitic commentary on American campuses. The Israel Law Center warns that colleges and universities “may be liable for massive damage” if they fail to prevent anti-Semitism. The center sent hundreds of letters to university presidents drawing a line in the sand. This Israel civil rights center is carrying out this campaign in response to an alarming number of incidents against Jewish and Israeli students at U.S. universities.

A center’s lawyer, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said, “Anti-Israel rallies and events frequently exceed legitimate criticism of Israel and cross the line into blatant anti-Semitism, resulting in hateful attacks against Jews.” A student at Rutgers, to cite one example, said he was called “a racist Zionist pig” in a Facebook posting. That comment was made when the student questioned a Student Assembly decision to donate money to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund, a nonprofit organization with ties to the Holy Land Foundation, a foundation that has funded Hamas.

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Yale’s New, Neutered, Anti-Semitism Program

A few weeks ago, Yale announced that it had terminated the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-semitism (YIISA). The official version of events, according to university spokespersons, cited two reasons: (1) an alleged failure by Yale professors affiliated with the institute to produce a sufficient level of scholarship; and (2) an alleged lack of interest from Yale students in courses related to anti-Semitism. This official version always seemed a little dubious, since Yale refused to release the evaluation report on which it allegedly based its decision. Yale’s action drew condemnation from a host of Jewish groups, most prominently the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Very quickly, beginning with an op-ed from Abby Wisse Schachter, an alternative explanation emerged: that Yale had shuttered the program because YIISA events had explored anti-Semitism in the contemporary Arab world, a line of inquiry that runs perilously close to offending the campus politically correct (and potential Middle Eastern donors to Yale).

This alternative theory was (unintentionally) confirmed by Yale professor Jeffrey Alexander, a sociologist with no apparent research interest in anti-Semitism who nonetheless was appointed to the center’s faculty-governance committee. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Alexander believed that YIISA’s 2010 conference was insufficiently scholarly, and instead featured too many speakers eager “to dismiss public concerns with the Israeli government’s behavior,” especially “Israel’s military and settlement policies.” He urged closing the program immediately, rather than giving it a chance to reform.

Monday brought news that all but confirmed that Yale had acted against YIISA for political rather than scholarly reasons. Despite the alleged poor production of Yale scholars interested in anti-Semitism, and despite the alleged lack of interest of Yale students in courses on the topic, Yale announced that while YIISA would not rise again, the university had decided to establish a new interdisciplinary institute dealing with anti-Semitism. The Yale Program for the Study of Anti-Semitism will begin work this fall, under the leadership of Maurice Samuels, a professor of French and author of Inventing the Israelite: Jewish Fiction in Nineteenth-Century France.

So what’s the difference between YIISA and the Yale Program for the Study of Anti-Semitism? The New Yale Program, Samuels strongly implied, will avoid anything resembling the pro-Israel positions that so offended Alexander and like-minded colleagues. “Contemporary anti-Semitism,” he wrote in a statement supplied by Yale’s public-affairs office to the Chronicle, is best studied through an approach of placing “current events into historical context.” Yale’s official announcement also steered the new program heavily away from anything that might offend campus left-wingers eager to demonize Israel or to minimize the linkage between anti-Semitism and contemporary anti-Israel attitudes: “Professor Samuels and his colleagues have Yale’s remarkable library resources at their disposal, including the Fortunoff Video Archives of Holocaust Testimonies and the 95,000-volume Judaica collection of the Yale Library.”

Samuels’ program, of course, is better than nothing, especially if it is able to increase course offerings and research support to Yale students. But Yale’s handling of this affair, from start to finish, gives the lie to any claim of freedom of thought on the New Haven campus.

Yale Professor Deems Anti-Semitism Initiative Too Pro-Israel

Decisions about academic programs  rarely appear as the subject of op-eds in major newspapers. But  In today’s Washington Post, Walter Reich, a George Washington University professor and a member of the international academic board of advisors of the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA), denounced Yale’s controversial decision to terminate the initiative.

Reich noted that quite beyond the importance of the topic–and the fact that only one other U.S. university (Indiana) has a similar interdisciplinary program–“the quality and output of the Yale institute have been superb and wide-ranging. The institute has attracted scholars from around the world to study anti-Semitism and to present papers; has numerous governance committees, most of them composed of eminent Yale faculty; and has an international academic board of advisers . . . from other universities.”

He suggested that outcry over YIISA’s 2010 conference–which was denounced for focusing on anti-Semitism in the Arab world–accounted for Yale’s decision.

Continue reading Yale Professor Deems Anti-Semitism Initiative Too Pro-Israel

Yale Eliminates Its Initiative Studying Anti-Semitism

The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA) was established nearly five years ago, the fourth  university center  in the world devoted to the subject ( after the Technical University of Berlin, and Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University ) and the first in the United States. Now, in a surprise announcement, Yale is eliminating the center because it “failed to meet high standards for research and instruction,”  according to an official statement.

If so, why terminate the program, rather than give it a chance to improve? The decision followed what was deemed a negative review report, a document Yale has so far declined to release.”Yale is strongly committed to freedom of speech, which gives rise to a rich diversity of views on campus.” So spoke Frances Rosenbluth, deputy provost for social sciences and faculty development, rationalizing the university’s decision .Yet, as the disgraceful  OCR/DKE affair reveals, Yale is not “committed to freedom of speech,” strongly or otherwise. Why, then, did Rosenbluth elect to justify the YIISA decision by painting a misleading picture of the campus climate?

The decision has prompted an outcry from national Jewish organizations. The ADL’s Abraham Foxman correctly noted that “especially at a time when anti-Semitism continues to be virulent and anti-Israel parties treat any effort to address issues relating to anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism as illegitimate, Yale’s decision is particularly unfortunate and dismaying.” American Jewish Committee Executive Director David Harris added that his organization “has been impressed by the level of scholarly discourse, the involvement of key faculty, and the initiative’s ability, through conferences and other programs, to bring a wide range of voices to the Yale campus,” and worried that “if Yale now leaves the field, it will create a very regrettable void.” Indeed, Rosenbluth herself had said, just last year, that YIISA was “guided by an outstanding group of scholars from all over the university representing many different disciplines.”

Continue reading Yale Eliminates Its Initiative Studying Anti-Semitism

CUNY Trustees Stand Up Against Faculty’s Anti-Israel Sentiments

Over the past year, it seems as if faculty at the City University of New York have done everything they can to make it seem as if hostility to Israel is the institutions official policy. First came Brooklyn Colleges decision to assign as the one and only required book for all incoming students a book penned by boycott-divestment-sanctions advocate Moustafa Bayoumi. The work contained such preposterous (and wholly unsupported) arguments as between 1987 and 2001, the U.S. government approach toward “Arab Americans” was “more often used to limit the speech of Arab Americans in order to cement U.S. policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Then, to open spring term, Brooklyns Political Science Department assigned an M.A. class a graduate student who hadnt even passed his qualifying exams–but did possess the requisite wildly anti-Israel views. Then, to complete the trifecta, John Jays faculty wanted to confer an honorary degree on BDS backer Tony Kushner, who has remarked that “I can unambivalently say that I think that it’s a terrible historical problem that modern Israel came into existence.”

At this point, the CUNY trustees finally stepped in to put a stop to the nonsense. At the urging of Trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, who has a long record both of supporting excellence at the institution and of standing up to extremist voices among the faculty, the Trustees exercised their authority and overrode John Jays ill-considered decision.

As Wiesenfeld subsequently explained, I would no differently oppose a racist for an honorary degree who personifies himself by calumny against a people . . . An honorary degree is wholly within the absolute discretion of the board to grant. It identifies the University with accomplished, generous citizens or public figures. It is also a tool which highlights the University and enhances its image in the educational marketplace. Every year, there are candidates that some trustees may not particularly favor. We can all express dissent where we warrant it – it is our right . . . No extremist from any quarter is a good face for any University — from far left or far right. Honorary degrees are public declarations of esteem by the university community conveyed to the honoree; for the university, they are image-building, advertising and publicity as well. The denial of the honorary degree to Mr. Kushner, despite his protestations, was a reflection of his long-held radical sentiments, which are a matter of indisputable and contextual public record. CUNY should remain a place of comfort and welcome for all of our students, faculty and administrators – including supporters of the Jewish State.

Continue reading CUNY Trustees Stand Up Against Faculty’s Anti-Israel Sentiments

Fighting Back Against Campus Anti-Semitism

felber.jpg

One day last March Jessica Felber, then 20, a Jewish undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley, was standing on her campus, holding a placard bearing the words: “Israel Wants Peace.”  At that moment, Husam Zakaria, a Berkeley student leader of Students for Justice in Palestine, reportedly rammed Felber from behind so hard with a loaded shopping cart that she had to be taken to the university’s urgent medical care facility.  This violent episode has become sadly emblematic of a wave of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents that have rippled across the country, nowhere more so than in the “Golden State,” which has become an epicenter for the New Anti-Semitism in America.  What makes this case different is that Felber fought back, charging this month in a federal lawsuit that UC Berkeley has ignored mounting evidence of anti-Jewish animus and should be held liable for the injuries she suffered.  Her  suit also contends that “physical intimidation and violence were frequently employed as a tactic by SJP and other campus groups in an effort to silence students on campus who support Israel”.

Sixty miles or so south of Berkeley along the Pacific coast, University of California Santa Cruz lecturer Tammi Rossman-Benjamin makes a similar case against her own employer.  For several years, Rossman-Benjamin has spoken out against anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism at the University of California, but she insists that the problem is not limited to a few rogue students:  “Professors, academic departments and residential colleges at UCSC promote and encourage anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish views and behavior,” she insists, “much of which is based on either misleading information or outright falsehood.”  Rossman-Benjamin describes an atmosphere at Santa Cruz in which taxpayer-supported, university-sponsored discourse that “demonizes Israel, compares contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis, calls for the dismantling of the Jewish State, and holds Israel to an impossible double standard – crosses the line into anti-Semitism…”  Like Felber, Rossman-Benjamin is fighting back.  The Santa Cruz whistle-blower filed a civil rights action with the U.S. Department of Education’s powerful Office for Civil Rights, arguing that UCSC has created a hostile environment for Jewish students.  Last week, OCR sent a powerful signal to academia when it informed Rossman-Benjamin that it is formally opening an investigation of her claims.

The Jessica Felber and Tammi Rossman-Benjamin stories are just the tip of the iceberg.  Over the last decade – since 9/11 and the start of the Second Intifada – there has been a persistent drumbeat of allegations by students and professors at many university campuses across the country.   It is true that most Jewish students will not face these problems, particularly if they avoid visibly associating themselves with the Jewish state or with Jewish institutions.  Moreover, the reported incidents are disproportionately concentrated in coastal states and on highly politicized campuses, especially in California.  Neverthless, problems are continually arising even on campuses like Indiana University which do not seem to fit the profile. In its widely read 2006 report on “Campus Anti-Semitism,” the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights observed that anti-Semitism had once again become a “serious problem” at many post-secondary institutions nation-wide.  In numerous cases, Jewish and Israeli students, particularly if they are outspoken supporters of Israel, have been physically accosted or confronted with a mix of classic anti-Jewish stereotypes and “progressive” anti-Israel defamations.  While it is difficult to quantify the extent of the problem – in part because of the dismal state of reporting on this issue – there is much support for the conclusion that Gary Tobin and Aryeh Weinberg reached in  their book, The Uncivil University; i.e.,anti-Semitism has now become systemic throughout American higher education,   even on the quieter  campuses.  Since 2006, the problem has only gotten worse, as old-fashioned bias has entered into the university-centered international campaign to delegitimize the Jewish State through boycotts, divestment and sanctions.

Continue reading Fighting Back Against Campus Anti-Semitism

Awards for Reporting about Anti-Semitism on Campus

At the Student Free Press Association, we’ve partnered with the Institute for Jewish & Community Research to establish $1000 awards for excellence in student reporting on anti-Semitism. To learn how to enter, go here. From the press release:

Campuses have become staging grounds for campaigns demonizing Israel, intimidating Jewish students and threatening the foundation of civil discourse in academia. Anti-Semitism and virulent anti-Israelism are regularly exhibited in a variety of venues on college campuses: speakers, events, media and scholarship have all been tainted by hostility and bigotry. History has shown that Jews are the “canary in the coalmine” of civility and tolerance. The lowered norms on campus threaten not just Jews, but all others as well.

California’s Most Anti-Semitic College

Anti-Semitic incidents are common at the University of California at Irvine, and the Muslim Student Union is the major perpetrator. Although not all the antisemitic events at UCI, detailed recently by Kenneth Marcus in Commentary magazine, can be traced to the MSU, those that can include physical and verbal harassment of Jewish students, posters of the Star of David dripping with blood, inversion of Holocaust imagery in which Jews are the new Nazis, and sponsorship of public speakers who accuse Jews of not being able to exist equally with other human beings, as well as accusations that Jews deliberately kill non-Jewish children for nefarious purposes.

For years, the UCI administration has ignored or condoned those activities. But the administration, finally, has sanctioned the MSU for an anti-Israel (not anti-Semitic) incident in which the union on February 8, 2010 continually disrupted a speech by Michael Oren, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States.

Ambassador Oren had been invited to speak by the School of Law, Department of Political Science, Center for the Study of Democracy, seven student groups, and community co-sponsors. The MSU, in an organized campaign, planned beforehand, as revealed by emails and minutes of an MSU meeting anonymously sent to the university administration, deliberately disrupted the lecture. There were more than ten interruptions in which MSU members screamed slogans such as “propagating murder is not an expression of free speech” “killer” and “how many Palestinians did you kill?” As they did, other students shouted and clapped.

As the disruptions occurred, the Dean of Political Science and the Chancellor pleaded with the audience to be polite and courteous . They expressed shame and embarrassment for the university. They threatened the disrupters with arrest, disciplinary procedures, and suspension and dismissal from the university. To no avail. After the disrupters finished, a large group of student supporters stood up and marched out, where they continued to shout slogans, such as “Anti-Israel, Anti-baby-killing.”

Eleven students, 8 from UCI, including the President and Vice President of the MSU, and 3 from UC Riverside, who had stood up, shouted out, and been removed by the campus police were arrested and cited for disturbing a public event.

Continue reading California’s Most Anti-Semitic College

Anti-Apartheid Week – 2

Growing Anti-Semitism On The Campus
The sad evidence that American campuses have been the site of rising anti-Semitism is truly an alarming phenomenon. Anti-Semitism has come from various sources: African-American student organizations; the Muslim Student Association at various colleges and universities, and the widespread movement on behalf of disinvestment in Israel, whose sponsors regularly compares Israel to South Africa, and advocate treating Israel today as the anti-apartheid movement treated South Africa decades ago.
But even more disturbing is the growing evidence that Jewish students are having a most confused response to this development. One has to look only at the announcement by J-Street- the self-described left of center antidote to AIPAC- that it would not call its campus chapters “pro-Israel” because that would limit their ability to gain members among Jewish students, as proof for how support of Israel is seen by many campus Jews as a position they do not wish to be identified with. The question that arises is what has happened to produce such sentiment?
Jewish students, like their non-Jewish counterparts, have grown up in a largely left-wing culture, in which the education they have received in high schools throughout the country, especially in the area of history or what used to be called civics, has been taught to them by teachers whose degrees are from left-leaning education schools. Or, perhaps, their teachers have been influenced by the view that the United States is the most evil nation in the world, which they in turn learned from people like Howard Zinn or Noam Chomsky. It is therefore not surprising to find the names of familiar left-wing Jewish figures on the nation’s campuses playing a prominent part especially in the disinvestment campaign. As Dennis MacShane, A Labour member of Parliament, put it in a 2007 Washington Post op-ed, “American universities have provided a base for Noam Chomsky and the late Edward Said, among others, to launch campaigns of criticism against Israel, and the bulk of the West’s university intelligentsia remains hostile to the Jewish state.”

Continue reading Anti-Apartheid Week – 2

Anti-Apartheid Week – 1

How About A Real Campaign Against Abuses?
IAW_2010poster_Toronto.jpgEvery year at about this time, radical Islamic students—aided by radical anti-Israel professors—hold an event they call “Israel Apartheid Week.” During this week, they try to persuade students on campuses around the world to demonize Israel as an apartheid regime. Most students seem to ignore the rantings of these extremists, but some naive students seem to take them seriously. Some pro-Israel and Jewish students claim that they are intimidated when they try to respond to these untruths. As one who strongly opposes any censorship, my solution is to fight bad speech with good speech, lies with truth and educational malpractice with real education.
Accordingly, I support a “Middle East Apartheid Education Week” to be held at universities throughout the world. It would be based on the universally accepted human rights principle of “the worst first.” In other words, the worst forms of apartheid being practiced by Middle East nations and entities would be studied and exposed first. Then the apartheid practices of other countries would be studied in order of their seriousness and impact on vulnerable minorities.
Under this principle, the first country studied would be Saudi Arabia. That tyrannical kingdom practices gender apartheid to an extreme, relegating women to an extremely low status. Indeed, a prominent Saudi Imam recently issued a fatwa declaring that anyone who advocates women working alongside men or otherwise compromises with absolute gender apartheid is subject to execution. The Saudis also practice apartheid based on sexual orientation, executing and imprisoning gay and lesbian Saudis. Finally, Saudi Arabia openly practices religious apartheid. It has special roads for “Muslims only.” It discriminates against Christians, refusing them the right to practice their religion openly. And needless to say, it doesn’t allow Jews the right to live in Saudi Arabia, to own property or even (with limited exceptions) to enter the country. Now that’s apartheid with a vengeance.

Continue reading Anti-Apartheid Week – 1

How Is Yiddish Doing?

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On 2 December 2009 the curtain of Harvard’s famed Agassiz Theater rose on a production of Avrom Goldfaden’s Shulamis, one of the most famous plays in the Yiddish repertoire. An operetta set in the Land of Israel in late biblical times, it was last performed in Warsaw in 1939, and forcibly shut down by the German invasion of September 1. To stage the current production its co-directors, Debra Caplan, a Harvard graduate student of Yiddish and Cecilia Raker, an undergraduate concentrator in drama, assembled a cast willing to learn their parts in a language most of them had never heard. The directors kept all the musical numbers in the original Yiddish and used a new English translation for the dialogue, adding dancers to the production to compensate for the verbal delights an English audience would miss.
Of the dozen plays I had studied with these students in a course on Yiddish drama, Shulamis was by no means the most obviously appealing to contemporary taste. Its theme is trustworthiness: a young man Absolom neglects the vow of marriage he made to the rustic Shulamis, who endures bitter years of waiting until he repents the alliance he made instead and returns to her. Beneath the intricacies of the love story throbs the Jewish national motif of keeping faith with covenant. What most intrigued the student-directors was the moral and psychological fallout of such faithfulness: How do we account for the suffering of the woman Absolom marries, and for the death of their two infant children in apparent retribution for his sin? When Absolom leaves his wife and fulfils his promise, can an audience forgive him as fully as Shulamis does, and is the reconciliation at the final curtain really meant to erase the effects of those intervening years? The excitement generated by such questions among cast, musicians, technical crew, and among scholars and graduate students invited to participate in an intercollegiate symposium on the play seemed to bear out the website’s claim for “a resurgence of interest in Yiddish among young people.”
Much of that interest is currently stimulated by institutions of higher learning, like Columbia, NYU, the Jewish Theological Seminary, Stanford, Emory, Brandeis, and universities of Indiana, Michigan, Albany, and Texas, all of which offer programs in Yiddish. Harvard’s current cohort of eight PhD candidates in Yiddish is its largest and liveliest since the inception of the program in 1993. Yet the field of Yiddish is hardly stable. The University of Maryland has just announced that it may drop its Yiddish position as a cost-saving device, sacrificing an apparently marginal subject—one unlikely to figure prominently in the college ratings of US News and World Report. The news from Baltimore generated anxiety in what had until recently been the expanding sphere of Yiddish studies. Comings and goings of faculty sometimes determine the status of the language, since many university positions in Jewish Studies are open ended, and shift their priorities according to the specialty of the person hired.

Continue reading How Is Yiddish Doing?

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)

One More Disaster At Columbia

Does a radical and viciously anti-Semitic professor deserve to get an award named for the great Lionel Trilling? Columbia University apparently thinks so. Its 2008 Trilling award will go to associate professor Joseph Massad for his book, Desiring Arabs. Trilling was an outstanding scholar known for his humanity and his liberalism. Massad is a hater who once claimed in class, according to a student witness, that the slaughter of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics had been perpetrated by the Israelis.

The prize, bestowed by the Columbia College student council and the Academic Awards Committee, honors a book “deemed to best exhibit the standards of intellect and scholarship found in Lionel Trilling’s work.” Like many awards, this one is a very political act aimed at restoring some lost luster to an idolized radical who has come under justified fire.

Nat Hentoff called Massad “one of the more fervently biased professors in the Middle East studies department,” a keenly competed for designation at Columbia. Massad is one of the professors accused of demanding of one Israeli student, “How many Palestinians did you kill today?” At a Columbia forum in 2005, he used the phrase “racist Israeli state” more than two dozen times and argued that Arafat was in effect an Israeli collaborator for even talking about compromise. Massad was the central figure in the 2005 controversy over student charges of anti-Israel bias and intimidation by pro-Palestinian professors in their classes. The students produced Columbia Unbecoming, a film about the behavior of middle eastern professors. Makers of the film said individual professors were “using their positions to promote a narrow political agenda that clashes with free and open inquiry.” A committee named to investigate the charges turned out a bland report hailed as “thoughtful and comprehensive” by Columbia president Lee Bollinger, but dismissed as a political whitewash by Hentoff, among others. This prize is yet another setback for seriousness at Columbia.

What Faculty Think About Religion

Faculty at American colleges and universities are more religious than many of us believe-65 percent say they believe in God and 46 percent claim a personal relationship with God. Still, they are far less religious than the general population, some 93 percent of which believes in God, with 66 percent reporting a personal relationship. While 80 percent of the public identify themselves as Christian, the comparable percentage of faculty is much lower-56 percent-primarily because Evangelical Christians account for 33 percent of the general population but only 11 percent of college faculty. These numbers show up in “Religious Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty,” a report by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research. Some 6,600 faculty were surveyed.

One of the strongest findings is that political ideology is highly associated with attendance at religious services. Those who go to services every week, or almost every week: 24 percent of liberals, 44 percent of moderates, and 66 percent of conservatives. Non-religious faculty tend to be the most negative about U.S. policies in the Middle East and most positive about the United Nations and institutions such as the International Court of Justice. The vast majority of faculty listed North Korea, followed by the U.S., as the greatest threats to international stability. Continue reading What Faculty Think About Religion