Friday, February 11, 2005

Cover-up at Columbia

Ryan Sager writes about Columbia President Lee Bollinger's response to accusations of anti-Semitism among Columbia's professoriat: (1) set up a committee to investigate those allegations that includes five members -- two profs who signed an anti-Israel divestment petition, the prof who was the thesis adviser for Joseph Massad (an anti-Israel prof who allegedly asked a student who was a former IDF member "how many Palestinians have you killed?"), a prof who has written that Israel is responsible for global anti-Semitism and a university administrator who ignored student complaints for months; (2) ensure that the Committee report will remain private and only a synopsis will be available to the public; (3) have the Committee appointed by an administrator whose wife teaches a class with Massad; (4) do nothing as the Committee investigates the making of Columbia Unbecoming (the film that raised these issues) more than the accusations of anti-Semitism.

The result of Bollinger's cover-up attempt:

A group of professors on campus is releasing a report today that is highly critical of the university's handling of charges of anti-Semitism and classroom intimidation — and especially of the committee that Bollinger set up to investigate.

What's more, students who have observed the committee's proceedings are raising their own troubling questions about the direction the inquiry has taken.

"I don't understand why a committee investigating such a sensitive issue would be recruited among people with such blatant conflicts of interest," says Judith Jacobson, an assistant professor of public health and founder of the Columbia chapter of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, the group issuing the report.

Ultimately, Sager understands what is at stake:

These brave professors have now spoken, despite the scorn it may earn them on campus. Other professors, holding their tongues for fear of doing damage to their careers, have an obligation to follow suit.

They have to defend academic freedom and diversity because Bollinger won't.

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