[This post was also published in the Columbia section of my weblog, which I will add to with shorter asides on the going-ons at Columbia University. As with the News section, until all of the pieces are worked out, I will publish selected posts on this page too. Thank you for your patience.]
John Corigliano, the famous composer who rocked Columbia University’s John Jay Awards Dinner last month has responded to the Middle East Asian Languages and Culture’s Chair, Hamid Dabashi’s, defaming letter in the Spectator published opposite my own column on Middle East Certitude.
In his letter to the editor, the great composer–who says that he did not even know of Rabbi Sheer until Dabashi shouted conspiracy–takes it easy on the MEALAC Chair, who is known for his short-fuse and hyper-sensitivity. The end, though, is the kicker:
“Dabashi’s responses to critics of his actions (including the same Rabbi Sheer) speak more to his outrage at being criticized at all than to any substantial refutation of his critics. I find something distinctly antithetical to the principles of free speech–in fact, something anti-intellectual–in Dabashi’s calls for the silencing of his critics, and something both histrionic and bullying in his comparison in Spectator of the most serious and reasoned critiques of his beliefs and behavior with “a campaign of terror and disinformation reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition.” (Such a quote only reveals a striking ignorance of history, a troubling matter for a professor in his field.)
Students deserve real self-discipline from their professors. I miss evidence of this quality in the illiberalism, sloppy research, and near-hysterical tone of these statements Dabashi has written for publication. It’s deeply disturbing to me that–at this time, of all times–such a person chairs the department of Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia.
I do hope the administration has the courage–for it will take a lot of courage–to stand up to demagoguery of this nature. Columbia has done so in the past, and, if it is still the institution I remember, I expect it will do so in the future.”