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It’s always PrezBo’s fault

tenureThe Sun reported a few days ago–from a “source at the college”–that Columbia has rubber stamped the hotbutton professor Nadia Abu El-Haj’s tenure bid at the Barnard Anthropology Department, the culmination of a drawn-out squabble on the margins of academia (Bwog’s resident expert Josh Mathew took a look when the grandstanding reached its height around the beginning of the semester). Spec still hasn’t independently confirmed it, and we don’t reckon anyone’s going to be answering e-mails over break. But that didn’t stop New Republic editor Marty Peretz from going off on the appointment, bemoaning the state of historical integrity and calling for the Trustees to hand PrezBo a pink slip. 

It’s not the end of the world, Marty. At least Joseph Massad still doesn’t have tenure, according to another wildly speculative rumor.

UPDATE, 1:05 PM: Okay, Spec did confirm it.

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  • assess says:

    @assess One doesn’t need to use anthropological arguments to refute a premise that is pseudo-historical.

  • ARR says:

    @ARR Also, if it takes a “back room deal” to deny Massad tenure, our school is screwed.

    1. Transparency? says:

      @Transparency? Who said that a “back room deal” was involved in the tenure decisions of Abu El-Haj and Massad? (That’s assuming, of course, that there has been a tenure decision in regards to Massad.) Doesn’t this fuel the same type of rumor mill that you have criticized?

      Also, consider the benefits of the current tenure process. I highly doubt that most of those people who signed the petitions for or against granting Professor Abu El-Haj tenure actually read her book. And yet how vocal both sides have been. (look, for example, at commenter #22). Even Alan Segal, during his lecture against Abu El-Haj’s book, said that last year, he and other faculty members did not want to talk publicly about the issue “because obviously we didn’t want to be the people to interfere with the issues.” He admitted that he only came out to speak AFTER the issue became prominent online.

      Is transparency important? Yes, it allows us to make sure ANY department’s administration is operating properly and intelligently. But transparency is only effective and useful if those looking in (students, other faculty, the general public) are educated and informed about the issues. From the Abu El-Haj’s tenure process, we’ve proven ourselves to be too lazy to pick up a book and read the whole thing. More simply put, do I want commenter #22 – who admits that he/she has read neither Abu El-Haj’s book nor a substantial chunk of Said’s writings yet chooses to comment on both authors – to influence my faculty selection?

      The book is on reserve at Barnard, Butler, and Lehman.

      1. Alum says:

        @Alum Good point. Note that Marty Peretz’s TNR piece says only that he “looked at” El Haj’s book and not that he actually read it — let alone that he is qualified to assess the anthropological arguments it contains.

        1. Pointer says:

          @Pointer Except, my dear Alum, she bases her anthropological arguments on stark likes about archeology, a field in which she has zero experience. It makes me scratch my head that this debate is about pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian… like it always is here. This is about the kind of scholarship that Columbia and Barnard would like to uphold and present to the world. Frankly, it’s shameful that they’ve so easily passed her through this process, and that the anthro department dug its heels in to protect ‘one of it’s own’ without stopping to consider the academic criticism of her work. If a pro-Israel professor from the anthro department made claim like El-Haj’s about systematic archaeological destruction by the PA of Israel’s historical presence in the land, and he had no experience in archeology and decided to base his facts on base lies, then I’d be just as unhappy with his Tenure. As an aside, he wouldn’t have to try hard to prove his case–note the Muslim Waqf’s bulldozer currently on top of the Temple Mount which is busy wrecking thousands of years of history, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian. The Wafq, of course, is the Muslim authority charged with maintaining and preserving the Temple Mount. Sounds like they are doing a great job.

          1. Alum says:

            @Alum El Haj’s book was published several years ago by the University of Chicago Press, where I presume it was subjected to rigorous scrutiny. It then won kudos and awards upon publication.

            The book did not generate any significant controversy until Paula Stern — who is neither an anthropologist nor an archeologist but who, as a resident of disputed Israeli-Palestinian territory, has a clear bias in this matter — decided to oppose El Haj’s tenure bid.

            If the book’s arguments are as weak and absurd as you claim, how do you explain this history?

            1. arguments says:

              @arguments If this were the 15th century and you just happened upon a book about geocentric planetary dynamics (epicycles and all), would you, as a general matter, take time out of your day to read it, even if you had seen, with your own eyes, evidence that the basic premise was false?

              1. Alum says:

                @Alum No, but I don’t see why that matters. The book you describe would not have been peer reviewed by experts in the field, as El Haj’s book was. Your question also does not suggest that the book would have been as respected by experts as El Haj’s has become.

                Were I — a non-expert — to read such a book and be startled by its conclusions, I would not be quick to presume that the book is wrong and that my presuppositions must be right. I certainly wouldn’t attack its proponents as if no reasonable person could possibly disagree with me. (Which is how some critics — though perhaps not you — view El Haj’s book.)

                1. again says:

                  @again staying away from the specifics–but surely you’re not going to claim that the peer review in a purely philosophic argument based liberal art is going to be subject to the same objective scrutiny and empirically based tome would be? Right?

                  Especially when you consider that if depts like anthro are truly infested with El Haj like academic or conversely mealacish depts back in the day with Bernard Lewis’ (not comparing the two), there would be an ideologically palatable groupthink

                  also, as an aside. one of the main proponents of geocentricity is actually a case western reserve phd (a good school by the way)

                  1. Alum says:

                    @Alum I agree that peer review in the social sciences is inherently more subjective than in the natural sciences. This is true of all peer reviews by social scientists, though, and there is no evident reason to believe the review of El Haj’s book was any less objective than other peer reviews in the field. I don’t see how you can presume there is a weakness in the reviews of her book unless you believe many books published by major university presses are similarly flawed.

                    1. well says:

                      @well that would require that certain social sciences have became ideologically monolithic and have instituted a type of methodological orthodoxy in their field. That, no doubt, is crazy.

                      By the way, damn you guys for even tangentially dragging me into this. I don’t care about El-Haj, Said, Dershowitz, Bollinger or anyone else who could be mentioned next.

              2. only says:

                @only if it had a complex system of deferents accompanying it.

                a geocentric system without deferents is one that i wouldn’t want to know (and one that wouldn’t be complex enough to present that tiny

          2. Incidentally, says:

            @Incidentally, There is no question about what the bulldozer was destroying, and it wasn’t “Muslim” or “Christian.”

      2. ARR says:

        @ARR I think you missed my point. I find it highly improbable that there was a back-room deal. But if there were one, and if that were the only reason for Massad being denied tenure, I would be worried for two reasons: 1) it would mean that academic legitimacy is established at Columbia through “cutting deals” and not through producing a solid body of work, and 2) that Joseph Massad’s laughably weak body of work isn’t what cost him a lifetime post here.

        And I agree with you that transparency is meaningless if we don’t educate ourselves. So, let’s educate ourselves: go to ProQuest or JSTOR and read all the Massad essays you can find. I can’t gaurentee you’ll find them to be based on highly prejudicial, psuedo-academic innuendo–you should decide for yourselves whether the author of “On Zionism and Jewish Supremacism” or “Desiring Arabs” is the kind of scholar you’d want your University granting tenure to.

        1. Alum says:

          @Alum As far as I can tell (and I could be wrong), “On Zionism and Jewish Supremacism” is an opinion piece in a magazine of opinion and not a scholarly article. I don’t think opinion pieces should be the basis for tenure decisions. There also seems to be plenty of favorable reaction to “Desiring Arabs”.

          1. ARR says:

            @ARR It’s a footnoted journal article. So while it definitely isn’t a “scholarly article,” that’s what it what was clearly intended to be.

  • ARR says:

    @ARR A few weeks ago, an article I wrote entitled “No Tenure for Massad” was used as proof in the blogosphere that Massad had been denied tenure. This seems considerably less absurd in light of the confusion over whether or not Abu al-Haj had been granted tenure–any process this secretive, and with such a delierate lack of transparency is bound to create “unsubstantiated” rumors, precisely because even the most fundamental and important facts are so difficult to substantiate.

    1. Alum says:

      @Alum The problem is that people who only look at the headline and the fact that it is from Spec may not realize it is an opinion piece and conclude instead that it is a factual report. That was my initial reaction when the headline came up in my own Google search earlier today.

  • said says:

    @said I did not dispute the merits of his work. Merely the implication that such an ideological stance is any sort of liability in the tenure process. I haven’t read enough of Said’s work to comment on its entirety.

  • heaven blest says:

    @heaven blest Yes to the latter. Tracking is all fine and well. My multiple postings were not intended to to appear as though they were written by different people.

  • God bless says:

    @God bless tracking…

    Comments #22, 23, 24, 25, 27, and 28 are by the same person.

    My question stands: Have you read either Professor Abu El-Haj’s book or Professor Raz-Krakotzkin’s editorial in the Spectator?

  • moreover says:

    @moreover The issue at hand is not the fact that she’s pro-Palestinian, but that her field of “expertise” is faux history. If her propaganda wasn’t pro-Palestinian, in fact, I doubt she would even get through the front door.

  • blah says:

    @blah Edward Said has become something of a god at this institution.

    1. Alum says:

      @Alum The idea that Edward Said’s stature was something Columbia granted him by fiat is often raised by his critics but is demonstrably false. His reknown flowed from his own accomplishments and not from anything “this institution” ever did to honor him.

      Said was held in great esteem by his peers around the world. That’s why he was president of the Modern Language Association — the country’s leading society of literary scholars. It’s why he received more than fifteen honorary doctorates, including several from such other major universities as Chicago and Michigan. It’s why Harvard, Princeton and others were perpetually trying to recruit him to join their own faculties. It’s also why many scholars have written books about his work and will continue to do so for years to come.

      1. what I Said says:

        @what I Said Incidentally, I never said that Said’s stature was granted to him by “fiat,” but merely that he has become something of a god here. Of that there is no question. I contend (but I’m sure you will deny) that this has much to do with ideology.

        1. Alun says:

          @Alun Your earlier post suggested that the actual (i.e., non-ideological) merits of Said’s work were not a big part of the reason he became such a major figure. Even had he been based at a more conservative university I think his stature would have been essentially the same. My sense is that you disagree. Am I right?

  • Blablabla says:

    @Blablabla Would a pro-Israeli academic up for tenure, writing about how fucked up Arabs are, ever have the merits of his work questioned? I’m going to guess no. It’s only because Nadia is pro-Palestinian that this debate even arose, and people are finding holes in her work to pick at. Poking holes at pro-Jewish academia is too sensitive and dangerous, so it is avoided. But the minute someone takes a stance the other way, the Jewish lobby will go to great lengths to discredit the author. Don’t believe me? Two words: Edward Said.

  • pink slip says:

    @pink slip It is about time for Prezbo to get the pink slip. Don’t expect that to happen any time soon though.

  • lol says:

    @lol CU as overly anti-Zionist!! hahahahaha…golly

  • This would says:

    @This would be far from the first time Columbia took an overtly anti-Zionist stance on an issue. I’m getting pretty used to it by now. I’ve already seen the nasty politics that happen in the science/engineering departments. I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of filth that takes place in the liberal arts dept’s.
    Surely, Abu El-Haj’s tenure will only bring good things to this University. I expect it will greatly accelerate the newly developed Columbia@Tehran Holocaust Studies program.

    1. hmm says:

      @hmm I think david horowitz just discovered bwog.

    2. ... says:

      @... “Columbia@Tehran Holocaust Studies program”…… haha you’re so funny!

      I think this wholly demonstrates why there are not that many conservative comics out there…

    3. give him a break... says:

      @give him a break... He’s SEAS.

      1. kiss says:

        @kiss my ass. And when you’re done licking my asshole, go back to feeling guilty about spending your parent’s money on a degree in “English.”
        You know what? I don’t give a shit about politics. I DO give a shit when people with a questionable record are given undeserved recognition. And it’s not because I secretly hate successful people. It’s because I’ve experienced, on my own skin, how fucking difficult it is to produce high quality academic research work. If she gets tenure, that automatically calls into question the integrity of every other tenured professor at Columbia. Provided, no one really cares about the Anthropology department.
        Finally, if you think “overtly anti-Zionist” is a joke, maybe you need to wave your hands around a bit, clear all that weed smoke from in front of you, and look at the real world.
        P.S. Anyone else who would like to argue about the merits of SEAS: I have not done worse than A- in every non-tech course I’ve taken. How well do you think you would do in even my first year engineering courses?

        1. I get says:

          @I get A’s in all my classes so I win. pathetic asshole.

          AND i’m pretty sure Columbia has a shitload of Jews FROM Israel who support Israel and I don’t know but doesn’t that kind of qualify you as a zionist? I think Columbia is so anti-Zionist precisely BECAUSE it is also very Zionist.

        2. you says:

          @you seem so certain that her scholarship is questionable. Have you fact-checked it? Have you reviewed it? Are you an expert in her field (seeing that you’re thumping your chest with SEAS-pride, I’m gonna hazard a guess on this one: no.)

          Based on your assertions, the tenuring process is clearly run by a bunch of agenda-driven anti-semites (perhaps it is.)

          Maybe we’ll deal with this “crisis” just like the last one- enforced parity:

          1. certain says:

            @certain I, for one, happen to know, from first-hand observations, that Israel, (and the West Bank in particular) is literally littered with archeological evidence of a historic, Jewish presence.

        3. Uh huh... says:

          @Uh huh... If she gets tenure, that automatically calls into question the integrity of every other tenured professor at Columbia. Provided, no one really cares about the Anthropology department.

          Have you read her book, buddy? And I mean the whole thing, not just the excerpts you might have seen in the Spectator or, even worse, Paula Stern’s blog.

          1. tenure says:

            @tenure It automatically demeans those who had to work hard and submit quality academic work in order to get tenure, as well as those innumerable candidates who were denied tenure despite their honorable credentials.

          2. anthropology says:

            @anthropology Pity. This was the first anthropology department in the nation, I believe, and the home of Margaret Mead.

        4. Or... says:


          Have you read a review of Abu El-Haj’s work by an Israeli professor?

      2. hahahha says:

        @hahahha i’m not going to take a stand in this little tenure debate but do we serious have a philosophy/random geographical area studies/english/poli sci major poking fun at an engineer

        cause yeah, while they’re designing the bridge your travel over or the stent you’ll need after a lifetime of mcdonalds you can show them by i don’t know, writing an angrily worded essay

        1. woops says:

          @woops i meant seriously

          history majors who can’t use grammar correctly or spell ftw!

        2. or a says:

          @or a poorly worded one.

  • time to says:

    @time to tenure a geocentric astrophysicist now

  • ... says:

    @... Damn it… We don’t suppress academic theories that are controversial at Columbia? What a bloody shame…

    And I like BWOG’s choice of words: “rubber stamped”… i seriously doubt any decision made on this professor would qualify as being rubber stamped considering the extensive debate that raged on this issue

    1. controversial says:

      @controversial doesn’t equal thorough/containing merit (ex. i posit a theory that the sun revolves around the earth)
      Anyway, Columbia’s playing Brockport in the first round of the northeast playoffs (i’m sorry, but like women’s soccer,i’m excited we have a winner on campus). If they win it’d be sweet to see bwog liveblog what could be the resulting game versus army who’s a top 5/10 team and a perennial national power (and then we could call foxnews to cover Columbia vs. America)

    2. The Columbia Admin says:

      @The Columbia Admin i.e. Prezbo is supposed to “rubber stamp” the tenure approval of Barnard Faculty. He has final say in the process.

    3. Sprinkles says:

      @Sprinkles The issue is not just that she’s controversial.

      The issue is that her book fails to cite sources and distorts facts. That’s a pretty big no-no if you want to be considered a serious academic.

      1. since when says:

        @since when is barnard included in a discussion of “serious academia”? just a thought.

    4. "controversial" says:

      @"controversial" at Columbia would be a Zionist. That’s why MEALAC is overwhelmingly pro-terrorist.

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