A columnist at the NYU student paper tries to explain to his readership what is really going on with Columbia Unbecoming–only thing is that he:
1. Hasn’t seen the film
2. Hasn’t spoken to the people in it
3. Gets the facts wrong due to his reliance on bad sources
Read it for yourself–and write the paper a letter if you’re so moved. Maybe you can ask them to require their columnists to be journalists in the future (and find out that there are more than six students in the film and that all situations have been corroborated). Or at least to tell him to get to know the material before he goes public with his opinion next time.
Prof. Ruth Raphaeli’s piece about how the Jewish faculty in MEALAC have been treated nicely over the years sort of gives the Spectator a “tie” in my balance rating.
Yes, some have told me that the letter is in essence neutral other than her last two sentences, where she writes “This being said, I would like to express my serious concern regarding the direction our department as a whole has taken in the past few years. Thus I add my voice to those who are calling upon the administration to pay close attention to the complaints aired in the video.” But I’m willing to give the Spec the benefit of the doubt and count this towards balance.
Hope they keep it up.
Fedora Lapis has a very interesting post on Prof. Joseph Massad’s work on his/her weblog, basically showing how Massad uses, eh, Nazi terminology to define his description of Israel. Don’t know how much I agree with it–I don’t think Massad is a Nazi–but the argument is interesting.
Here is the email I sent to Dean Anderson of SIPA after she spoke at last night’s SPME meeting:
Hi Dean Anderson,
Thanks so much for your comments last night.
It was interesting for me to learn that the administration in no way assures the quality of the product being taught in the classroom, and that I, as a student, can only be sure to get value for my tuition if I complain after a class has already taken place.
I am attaching Professor Joseph Massad’s syllabus for this term-the second part of the class he teaches that is mandatory for all MEALAC majors, if I am not mistaken. While you might be right that “balance” is impossible, I do not think that sourcing one text aids in increasing the “sophistication” of students, as I think you put it.
It is interesting to note that the course’s goal is to give the student “the basis for a comparative frame, an introduction, and entry point, that will allow you to pursue a deeper historical and critical understanding of the complexity and diversity of the two parts of the world dealt with in this class,” and yet it totally omits the history of minorities in the Middle East–such as the Jews. Does that mean that Columbia University does not think that Jewish history in the Middle East should be part of a student’s “basis for a comparative frame”?
I look forward to your reflections on the adequacy of the course readings.
I wonder how she will respond.
Reading through Howard Zinn’s article in Mother Jones, I came across this interesting part:
I received my doctorate in history at Columbia University, but my own experience made me aware that the history I learned in the university omitted crucial elements in the history of the country.
Now, he goes on to say a few things that I do not agree with, but the point he makes stands on its own: the history Columbia University still teaches omits crucial elements. Want an example? See below–Professor Joseph Massad’s syllabus from a class that is obligatory for MEALAC Majors.
Notice the one book he has the students read about Israel in its entirety: Maxime Rodinson, Israel, a Colonial Settler State? This book was published in 1973. Omitting crucial elements is right. Maybe we should get Howard Zinn to speak to the way history is being taught at Columbia today.
The Spectator is on its way towards balance, printing two op-eds which are not critical of the Columbia controversy and Columbia Unbecoming: Bari Weiss’ great piece on why students who stand for academic freedom should stand with their fellow students, and a piece by the David Project leadership explaining what the organization is all about.
The score, according to my metrics, is now 12-11, showing a statistically insignificant lead for the anti-Student’s Rights group (or Pro-Abuse or Pro-Professor-can-do-whatever-they-want-and-call-it-freedom; I’m biased, I admit it, so my naming reflects it.) If the Spec keeps it up, we might just have good journalism on this campus.
While I cannot verify it yet, because the Spectator website does not show the opinion section at this point, I was told by the editor of the opinion section that they have printed an apology for allowing Adam Sacarny’s piece to run. What disturbs me, though, is that she wrote this:
Additionally, the ratio of pieces in favor of and against “Columbia Unbecoming” is actually representative of the letters and submissions we have been receiving (on Tuesday we are running pieces by the head of the David Project and by Bari Weiss, both in favor of the documentary). I did not print your letter because I had just printed one in the previous issue with two of the same co-authors, and because the letter did not respond to content — it merely expressed support for Professor Massad.
First of all, the idea that letters or op-eds need to be proportional–that is absurd. That allows a tyranny of the majority, which is exactly what a free press is supposed to counter. Second, the letter we wrote was directly in response to the email sent by Moshe Rubin and quoted in the Spectator, and a new version of it was sent a week after the Spectator printed the letter by LionPAC–signed by only one of the co-signers on the letter I sent in. The way that both of these justifications are written, I am still not convinced that the Spectator isn’t being “very careful” about how they deal with MEALAC. Or, let me rephrase that: it is becoming ever clearer that the Spectator are not the watchdog one would hope they would be as an independent publication, but are rather MEALAC’s lapdog.