[Marxism] Potentially good news out of Columbia

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Apr 10 11:50:14 MDT 2009

Reported rumors suggest Massad will be tenured
by Betsy Morais

Reported rumors have spread that Middle East and Asian languages and 
cultures professor Joseph Massad will be granted tenure.

Yet despite the chatter, most notably reported by the Chronicle of 
Higher Education on Wednesday, the outcome of the controversial 
Palestinian scholar’s tenure process remains to be seen and the review 
has not concluded. The Chronicle’s blog stated that a “professor in the 
department who did not want to be named said word on the grapevine 
within the department is that Mr. Massad will be awarded tenure.”

Columbia officials would not confirm, deny, or comment on the status of 
the confidential tenure process. The committee of faculty responsible 
for reviewing Massad’s tenure petition—none of whom, according to 
University policy, are members of his own department—were unavailable to 
or declined to speak.

Massad, who is in his second round of tenure review consideration, is 
currently abroad in Egypt and could not be reached for comment. Other 
members of the MEALAC department declined to comment or were unavailable.
In 2007, Massad’s review for tenure made headlines over rumors that his 
petition had been denied. In June of that year he released his newest 
book, Desiring Arabs, which was not included among the tenure 
committee’s first batch of materials.

Though a second round of review is not unheard of in Columbia’s tenure 
process, it does not take place frequently. The University’s faculty 
handbook, published by the Provost’s office, outlines the way the review 
process works and explains that, “a second review may be conducted for a 
candidate after a negative decision if the Provost determines that the 
first was marked by procedural irregularities of a magnitude that 
materially affected its outcome.”

Outside of “procedural irregularities,” “a candidate is reconsidered 
only in rare instances when the Provost is satisfied that there is 
evidence of substantial scholarly growth following the original negative 
decision.” In that case, the nominating department submits a statement 
that includes new materials which were not previously reviewed.

Massad received his doctorate in political science from Columbia in 
1998. As a faculty member, he has received attention not only for his 
academic work, but also for his controversial stances on issues ranging 
from Israeli identity to American politics in the Middle East. In 2005, 
Massad was thrust into the limelight surrounding an investigation of the 
MEALAC department after students’ reports that they were intimidated in 
class for expressing support of Israel inspired David Project’s 
documentary, Columbia Unbecoming.

After the investigation, Massad wrote that the report “suffers from 
major logical flaws, undefended conclusions, inconsistencies, and clear 
bias in favor of the witch-hunt that has targeted me for over three 
years,” according to the MEALAC Web site.

Since then, many—especially scholars and students of Middle Eastern 
studies—have anticipated the outcome of Massad’s bid for tenure.

In the final stages of the process, “the Provost weighs the evidence 
presented to the committee and the discussion of the members at their 
meeting before deciding whether to accept their recommendation,” the 
Faculty Handbook states. The provost then submits his or her 
recommendation to the University president, who can then forward a 
tenure nomination to Columbia’s board of trustees.

Though the provost, president, and board are not bound by the tenure 
review committee’s recommendation, the handbook describes such 
departures as “unusual cases.”

“The most important part of the tenure process is the ad-hoc committee,” 
Provost Alan Brinkley said. “Usually there is a strong connection 
between what the ad-hoc committee decides and what subsequent steps in 
the process do. They usually are all the same.”

Kim Kirschenbaum and Alix Pianin contributed reporting to this article.

news at columbiaspectator.com

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