[News] Defend Academic Freedom at Columbia University

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Tue Apr 5 08:27:15 EDT 2005

NCA April, 2005 Monthly Bulletin

In Support of Academic Freedom and Professor Joseph Massad
A Statement from the Defense of Civil Rights in Academia (DCRA) Project

The following is a statement from the Defense of Civil Rights in Academia
(DCRA) Project in support of academic freedom and distinguished Columbia
University professor Joseph Massad.  The statement was issued in response to
Columbia University Faculty Ad Hoc Grievance Committee Report about
allegations against professor Massad and other faculty members.  For a
significant period, professors at Columbia University who are critical of
Israeli practices and US foreign policy have been targeted by a systematic
ultra-right campaign of slander and defamation.  Classes have been
videotaped and “visitors” have been monitoring lectures resulting in
blacklisting professors.

The assault on academic freedom at Columbia University, which has placed
Arab American professors as its primary targets, has reached a new high. It
is being viewed by neo-cons as their test case for a national campaign of

We urge you to send a letter of support of academic freedom and professor
Massad to Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger at:
bollinger at columbia.edu.

Additional information and links are found at the end of this statement. To
find out more about the DCRA, please visit:


Text of Statement:

The Defense of Civil Rights in Academia (DCRA*) project stands in support of
professor Joseph Massad and professor George Saliba of Columbia University.
We are deeply concerned about the actions of Columbia University
administration that have recently culminated in the report of its appointed
ad-hoc Grievance Committee.  The ad-hoc committee was established
to “identify cases where there appear to be violations of the obligation to
create a civil and tolerant teaching environment in which opposing views can
be expressed.”

DCRA members nationwide, including faculty, staff and students, have long
been outraged by the vicious and slanderous attacks on the work and
character of professor Joseph Massad. These attacks have repeatedly proven
to be unfounded in the reality of work, research, publication and, most
importantly, teaching of professor Massad.  These attacks are clearly
politically motivated targeting a professor’s distinguished teaching history
and academic contributions ­ achievements that have earned him the
tremendous support and admiration of his students, colleagues, and scholars

The DCRA had anticipated that the administration of Columbia University
would take a strong stand against the systematic process of intimidation of
and slander against professor Massad and others that included planting
students to spy and the videotaping of professor Saliba’s lectures.  To our
deepest regrets, however, the university administration has instead
questionably adopted the construct of those intending to stifle discourse
and academic freedom.

Needless to say, the attacks on Massad and Saliba are part of the larger
assault on Arab American faculty nationwide by an increasingly aggressive
neo-conservative trend. Similar attacks have recently targeted professor
Rashid Khalidi, also of Columbia University.  These attacks are consistent
with the irresponsible campaign against the Arab and Muslim American
communities that have found a new high since September 11.  Our educators
are increasingly placed under questionable scrutiny to further the goal of
limiting critical thinking.

This censoring of personal and academic freedom threatens the very core of
academia and civil society - the very institutions that aim to create the
future citizens of this country.

Particularly disturbing is the manner with which the administration at
Columbia including President Lee Bollinger, Provost Alan Brinkly, and Vice
President of Arts and Sciences Nicholas Dirks treated professor Massad in
the ensuing months. They have sadly failed to acknowledge the systemic witch-
hunt that has transpired.  Instead of investigating hate mail addressed to
some of the leading scholars in their field and instead of protecting
campuses from so called ‘visitors’ that aim to spy on and curtail critical
thinking, they launched a charade of successive committees giving credence
to a politically motivated ultra-right fanatical campaign.  Whereas the
university questioned the presumed motives of a distinguished professor
while teaching his classes, they failed to question motives of politically
charged students who filed alleged charges.

Even though the committee did indicate that most of the matter before them
did not “constitute the basis for formal grievances,” there was no apology
given to professor Massad and there was no acknowledgement of the
intimidation he went through leading him to cancel his course in 2004.
Furthermore, there was no mention of the adverse and significant
repercussions the permitted campaign of character assassination has on his

We, like professor Massad, believe that this was a coordinated campaign from
inside and outside the university targeting Massad’s person and career based
on his nationality and political views.  The actions of the administration
at Columbia University - as they continue to target one professor after
another and as they allow intimidation and investigation of faculty - are a
disgrace to the academic institution and an attempt to push this society
back into a new era of McCarthyism.

As a people who are today at the primary receiving end of the ravages of
war, racism and hate in their multiple forms, we declare our support to
superb intellectuals such as professors Massad and Saliba, whose academic
skill and caliber are beyond question.  We stand with all those who dare to
speak and who aim to provide future generations the tools to engage the
world with courage and dignity.

To download professor Joseph Massad’s statement to the University of
Columbia Ad-Hoc, click here:

To read professor Joseph Massad’s article in Al-Ahram Weekly, click here:

or visit Al-Ahram Weekly at: http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2003/633/op2.htm

*The national committee of the Defense of Civil Rights in Academia (DCRA) is
a project of the National Council of Arab Americans (NCA) that campaigns to
defend the academic freedom and constitutional rights of all people. To find
out more about the NCA, please visit: www.arab-american.net

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