New York Times and Columbia University


The New York Times has a fawning interview with the Columbia University assistant professor, Joseph Massad, at the heart of the storm over anti—Semitism and intimidation among the faculty at Columbia University. The New York Times had ignored this year—long controversy, until forced to respond to the excellent coverage by its competitors at the New York Sun, the New York Post, and the Daily News (among others).

When earlier in the week they did respond to the release of an internal report which whitewashed the controversy, they agreed to restrictions imposed by the university that prevented them from seeking comment by students who have charged bias in the Middle East Studies program at Columbia. Thus, their article supported the cover—up.

When criticized by readers that this violated New York Times policy regarding balance and comprehensiveness , the Times was forced to issue a mea culpa—admitting it had violated its own policies in order to silence people who argued that there was intimidation against Jews and Israel supporters in the classroom.

Today, the Times  reflexively (in a fit of pique that their bias was shown for all to see?)  has an obsequious paean to Massad, portraying him as a sophisticated worldly aesthete ("perfectly attired, right down to the opalescent links binding his French cuffs") who insists he "won't stand for anti—Semitism" in his classroom (hmm..I supposed outside the classroom it is valid).

The reporter states that Massad is seeking to continue his class that has been  criticized by "detractors and crashed by hecklers who, because Professor Massad is a fan of free speech, are allowed to have their say".

Note to the reporter:  Massad's permissive attitude towards free speech is not a blessing granted by him — it is at the heart of academic discourse — and  it is his ban on pro—Israel comments  that is the core of the complaints students have registered towards him.

If the New York  Times is sincere about its policy of granting both sides of an issue a forum, then one can hope that they have an equally admiring portrait of the  many students and groups which have critiqued Massad.

Ed Lasky   4 8 05