Columbia University president Lee Bollinger has made good on his threat and discontinued the university's 10—year participation in a professional development program for training New York City K — 12 public school teachers. The dropped training program guided the teachers in how to teach the tender young minds of New York's youth about the Middle East. According to a report in yesterday's New York Sun, Bollinger's action comes in response to the dropping from the program of Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi, notorious for his vitriolic diatribes against Israel.
Khalidi was the target of New York Schools chancellor Joel Klein, who is Jewish, who serves under a Jewish mayor, and works with the system's huge teacher's union, also headed by a Jew. Not so strangely, Klein apparently disapproves of indoctrinating city teachers with the kind of hatred spewed by Khalidi. Bollinger, on the other hand, who is fast becoming known as the finest university president Arab money can buy, insisted that Khalidi be allowed to continue propagandizing city teachers with his oft—stated view that Israel is a 'racist' entity whose army members may legitimately be murdered by West Bank and Gaza Arab terrorists.
Under Bollinger's watch, the university's Middle East and Asian Language And Culture department (MEALAC) has accepted extensive funding from the United Arab Emirates and various other governmental and private Arab sources, and has become heavily tilted toward an outspokenly pro—Palestinian staff. Currently, the department is under fire, accused of intimidation by its professors of Jewish and Israeli students; and a non—independent school panel is purportedly investigating the situation, brought to light by complaints from a number of university students and highlighted in the documentary film, Columbia Unbecoming, produced by the David Project of Boston.
Yesterday, Sun investigative reporter Jacob Gershman, also reported new revelations of Arab money being funneled into Columbia's Middle East programs:
Saudi Arabia has funneled tens of thousands of dollars into the "outreach" programs of Columbia University's Middle East Institute, which until last week was training some of the city's public—school teachers in how to teach students about Middle East politics.
Since 2002, the government—owned Saudi Aramco has given the Institute annual grants of $15,000 for unspecified outreach activities. The Institute's outreach activities have included a 15—week teacher—training course on Middle East politics led by Columbia faculty members and graduate students.
Two prominent New York politicians have joined others who have publicly condemned the goings—on at Morningside Heights. Front—runner in the Democratic mayoral race, former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, urged to university to give the money back to Saudi Arabia; and
Another mayoral candidate, Rep. Anthony Weiner, who has urged Columbia's administration to deal harshly with professors accused of intimidating Jewish students, told the Sun in a telephone interview yesterday that Columbia should return the Saudi gift.
"The money from the Saudis should have automatically raised strong concerns in President Bollinger's office, especially when this controversy erupted in public," Mr. Weiner said. "It should have been quickly disclosed."
The university has not been fully forthcoming about the nature of the program its Middle East Institute provides to the NYC teachers, nor the effect on it of the one—sided funding behind the program:
Ms. Brown [a Columbia spokeswoman] would not disclose how the Middle East Institute, which is part of Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs, spent the Aramco money. Other outreach activities carried out by the institute include a public lecture series and a one—day educational program in 2002 for New York public—school teachers that provided participants with a special "sensitivity" curriculum for teaching issues related to Islam.
However, a faculty member at an Israeli institution in Tel Aviv stated the obvious:
A research associate at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, Martin Kramer, who has been a vocal critic of Middle Eastern studies in America, said the Saudi kingdom is a logical benefactor of the institute.
Chancellor Klein's dismissal of Khalidi from the panel instructing city teachers and Bollinger's follow—through on his ultimatum to cancel the program if Khalidi were not allowed to promulgate his anti—Israel propaganda, are just the latest chapter in an ongoing controversy over Columbia's approach to hiring faculty to teach about the Middle East. The 'stardom' accorded by Columbia to the late professor Edward Said, whose hatred of Israel was legendary, and the acceptance by the university of millions in funding for that chair from the UAE and other Arab sources stands in contrast to Harvard, whose president, Lawrence Summers, refused a similar gift offer. Unlike Columbia's president Bollinger, Summers is known for actively fighting anti—Semitic and anti—Israel movements on Harvard's Cambridge campus.
Presently, accusations of intimidation, prejudice, stifling of academic freedom, and harassment of students who disagreed with professors' extremist views in Columbia's MEALAC classrooms are being investigated by a supposedly independent panel headed by the university provost and composed of university professors, some of whom have public expressed antipathy toward Israel.
Jewish organizations have expressed fears of a whitewash effort and are planning to make their voices heard and their influence felt — especially through the pocketbooks of the many Jewish Columbia alumni whose contributions are needed to keep Columbia competitive with its Ivy League competitors — if the panel does not come up with appropriate conclusions leading to effective university action.
Stay tuned. And watch the New York Sun for further developments, as it is the only daily newspaper which has been conducting a thorough and ongoing investigation of the Middle East studies crisis situation at this once—august educational institution.