Tonight, Rashid Khalidi appears with Arthur Hertzberg on a panel at New York University. The subject: “Academic Freedom in a Time of Conflict.” I’ve written about both speakers and their relationship over at Sandstorm, under the title “The Day the Rabbi Rescued Rashid.”
The subject tonight is academic freedom, but that’s not the issue. On Columbia’s campus, the faculty have every protection imaginable, and then some. And the fact that New York City has banned Khalidi from teaching its teachers is a sideshow. (That program was a non-academic activity done under contract off-campus. There’s room to debate the wisdom of the Department of Education’s action, and the way in which it acted, but it was fully within its rights to reject Khalidi, and its ban on him hasn’t impaired his academic freedom by a whit.)
No, the issue is this: what is Columbia’s obligation toward its students, when all of its faculty on the Middle East including Khalidi converge at one extreme point? If the Middle East faculty believe that one of the states in the region should be eliminated, and they are uniform in this belief, will this not inevitably affect their teaching, in ways that are subtle or blatant? And if it does, hasn’t the university an obligation to provide another view, presented by fully-credentialed persons with the very same protections of academic freedom enjoyed by all faculty? Do the rights of the present faculty extend to monopolizing the recruitment of future faculty? Or does the university, as a community, have the right to override the present faculty in order to promote diversity?
These are the real questions that arise from the Columbia case, and they go far beyond what an out-of-touch rabbi thinks of an increasingly out-of-bounds professor.
Update: Here is a morning-after report on the panel. A bit sketchy.