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October 03, 2011

Civil Rights Investigation against Columbia University


The US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has opened an investigation of Columbia University upon the request of The Institute for Jewish and Community Research (IJCR). The OCR is investigating allegations that university faculty "steered" a Jewish student away from taking a class.

In January, the student got some troubling guidance from Barnard’s Middle East studies department chair. The young woman told the chair that she was interested in taking a course on the Arab world with Prof. Massad, who is notorious for his animosity towards Zionism. Massad, whether fairly or not, has been repeatedly accused of anti-Semitism. The chair looked at the young woman, whose Orthodox background is apparent in her modest attire. Then, as the student tells the story, the chair told her that she would not be “comfortable�? in Massad’s class and that she should instead consider a course on Ancient Israel.

According to Professor Kenneth Marcus, the Director of IJCR and the former head of OCR, Columbia violated the Jewish student's civil rights under Title VI of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 by deterring the student from taking the class.

By suggesting that a Jewish student may feel uncomfortable in Professor Massad's class, Columbia faculty are implicitly acknowledging allegations that Massad creates a hostile environment for Jewish and pro-Israel students. But instead of creating classroom environments where all student feel welcome, Columbia seems to think segregation of Jews might be the solution.

Posted by abs at October 3, 2011 02:28 PM


Columbia has always had problems with Jews. When they hired Lionel Trilling to a tenure track position (not that long ago) he was the first Jew to hold such a position in the literature department. Trilling was hired but he was warned not to bring into the department more Jews. Trilling played his role of token professor to the hilt. He took the sides of the Arabs in 1928 when anti-Jewish riots broke out in Hebron, Mandate Palestine. He hired a pseudo Palestinian professor
Edward Said who implied in his book "Orientalism"
anti-Arab, anti-Muslims sentiment was on a par with if not worse, than, European antisemitism which led to the murder of millions of Jews.

Arab have always had problems with Jews. Jews were ethnically cleansed from most Arab countries and found a home in Israel.

It's not a surprise then that Columbia University should make common cause with its Middle Eastern studies department to protect some of its antisemitic professors from being exposed to Jews.

This latest episode of bigotry is no surprise. I am glad that some people have decided finally to fight back.

Posted by: jacob arnon at October 3, 2011 07:15 PM

Barnard is an independent college affiliated with Columbia. Even if these allegations are true, they involve the actions of a Barnard professor who is beyond Columbia's authority.

Jacob Arnon's comment is uninformed. Lionel Trilling was hired in 1939 -- a year which the comment does not mention but describes as "not that long ago". I don't know if Trilling was involved in hiring Edward Said, but even if he was, so what? Said was a towering figure in his field, and was only one man on a faculty of thousands.

Yes, Columbia discriminated many decades ago. So did most other major universities. It does not follow that they still discriminate today. Columbia has one of the most renowned Jewish studies programs anywhere, with about a dozen endowed professorships. The percentage of Jews among its faculty, students and administrators (including the president) is very high. Few if any Jewish students ever feel they encounter discrimination, and when they do they describe it as an isolated incident.

Posted by: CU Alum at October 4, 2011 09:42 AM

I don't understand how academics employed in the U.S. get away with telling great big fat lies. About five years ago Nadia Al Haj received tenure at Barnard after publishing an archaeology book on Israel that was just one lie after another. Although some Barnard graduates challenged Al Haj on her book as being scurrilous and propagandized, as did some Jewish scholars, she won her tenure. I never thought I'd see the day when a school of higher education in the U.S. would allow lies. I believe some others in her department hounded Jewish scholars too. Barnard lost the financial support of some alumni over this.

Posted by: Kathleen Wagar at October 6, 2011 07:11 PM

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