While I hold no animosity towards the Jewish Week as an institution, I feel obligated to print this list of complaints I had with the article, which I shared with the Editor, Gary Rosenblatt. I do not print his email that prompted this one, since it is his and I respect his privacy. Here it is:
1. I was clearly misquoted in that my sentences were pulled apart and rewritten in the language of the author of the article. I never uttered a paragraph saying:
“They key is that the department has become a mouthpiece for a certain political end. I would rather no course be taught about Israel, or that the course would focus on the atmosphere of tyranny and oppression that is prevalent throughout the region.[sic]”
I did say, however, that I do not support the creation of an Israel studies chair to solve the problem, and that I would like courses (in plural) to focus more on the other countries of the Middle East. The first sentence has nothing whatsoever to do with the second. But it was strung together by the author in such a way that it seems like a direct quote. That is a problem.
2. I specifically told Liel that my role as president of the student body has nothing to do whatsoever with the article, since this activity is solely a personal matter. I told him that I would not like that to be published towards the beginning of our interview, and I would have not agreed to be interviewed if he did not agree to that. Plain and simple. Just like I am now writing you as an individual, and not representing any other person involved in the project or in the General Studies Student Council.
3. The quote about the Nazi sympathizers came from a student I spoke to last night, who does not want to come forward because she thinks the Jewish community will laugh at her for being over-sensitive.
4. I do not see how speaking to 30 people has anything to do with the charges being made. These charges are specific, by specific students. Again, I ask: if seven students were sexually harassed, and the thirty your reporter spoke to were not, would that mean that you would not believe the seven students? He did not even give them the benefit of the doubt. The only quote he attributes to Noah Liben, for example, is:
During one exchange in class, when he defended Israel and asked if Massad understood his point, the professor “smirked and said that he didn’t,” which led to the whole class “erupting in laughter,” Liben said.
This, Liben said, is harassment, as “the university has the responsibility to create an atmosphere where everybody feels comfortable being a student.”
The phrasing, which isn’t even in good English, presents the subject in a dismissive matter and quite frankly is not the charge Noah makes on the film. Are you going to tell me that choosing a quote that fit in with the rest of the mood of the article–which frankly does more to air Massad’s position than the students–shows integrity?
5. The fact that the Jewish Week did not have the patience to wait until the story was made public is disturbing. The Forward has waited. The Jewish Week could have run a different story, about the controversy, and waited to hear the evidence.
No, instead the Jewish Week ran a story hoping you could get the “scoop,” and did a dis-service not only to your readers but to the Jewish community as a whole by bringing them only part of the story. I am sorry the Jewish Week would have missed deadline. But the students decided to wait, the film decided to wait, and, as much as I respect the Jewish Week, I would have hoped it would have waited too.
As I wrote him, I believe we are all in this together–and I hope we will be able to solve this issue in a way that will show the integrity of the Jewish Week and accurately portray the abuse of students at Columbia.