This week’s New York Magazine runs a big feature story on the mess in Columbia’s Middle East department (MEALAC), and it’s well worth reading. I’m quoted there, but I said predictable things. Not so Professor Richard Bulliet, who teaches Islamic and Middle Eastern history in the History department:
The university should have looked at MEALAC five or ten years ago. It’s become locked into a postmodernist, postcolonialist point of view, one that wasn’t necessarily well adapted to giving students instruction about the Middle East…. We’ve had advocacy in the classroom for a long time. But in the areas where it’s most visible, like black studies and women’s studies, the point of view tends to coincide with the outlook of the Columbia community… But here we have an area where no consensus exists. And that’s the problem.
Bulliet and I have crossed swords a few times (he’s had the last word for now, in his recent book), but we’re on speaking terms, and I’d heard this from him in person. That someone of his standing at Columbia should have come forward now to criticize MEALAC in the media is testament to the damage the rogue department is doing to the university. And it’s another sign that the spell of intimidation cast by the radicals has been broken. Professor Bulliet: Bravo aleik.