Of 70 Columbia professors, expressed to the New York Sun! Some of them rather prominent! A faculty action committee statement of concern accuses PrezBo of failing “to make a vigorous defense of the core principles on which the university is founded, especially academic freedom.” Particularly rankling to signatories–which include such luminaries as Akeel Bilgrami, Bruce Robbins, Mahmood Mamdani, Gayatri Spivak, Eric Foner, and former Provost Jonathan Cole, as well as predictable lightning rods like Nadia Abu al-Haj and Nick DeGenova–is the impact of outside groups on tenure and other “academic freedom” issues. The New York Sun suggests (albeit very implicitly) that this could be the early stages of the kind of faculty ouster that cost Lawrence Summers his job; meanwhile, the professors plan on presenting their grievances tomorrow at a meeting of the Arts and Sciences faculty.
Conspiracy theorists will note a number of carefully worded references to recent events in the professors’ statement: “Tenure, “the hosting of controversial speakers,” “villifying members of faculty,” “partisan political positions concerning the politics of the Middle East”…this thing could be read as the culmination of faculty discontent with Low Library’s handling of the MEALAC controversy, the al-Haj tenure debate, the Ahmadinejad introduction, and Islamofascism awareness week.
But one conspiracy theorist has gone a step further: according to the mysterious “Emmett Trueman,” who has been flooding publicaton inboxes with “inside information” about this year’s tenure battles, an ad hoc committee has recommended that Professor Joseph Massad be denied tenure (which New Republic resident codger Marty Peretz called a few weeks ago), and the letter is an attempt by the MEALAC faculty to persuade the administration to overturn the recommendation. Also worth noting: at a panel tonight lauding Massad’s Desiring Arabs, hosted by the Heyman Institute, the professor noted that he was “personally grateful for this intervention.”