Following the tragic events of 9-11, pundits, policymakers and the general public called upon America’s educational institutions to help foster a greater understanding in this country of the Middle East and Muslim world. Across the country, colleges and universities struggled to respond to a growing demand for instruction in Arabic, Persian and Turkish and for expanded course offerings in the history and contemporary politics of the Middle East, as well as in the teachings of Islam. This workshop aims at exploring some of the challenges facing American higher education as it seeks to meet this demand.
These challenges are not insignificant. On the one hand, new national security regulations have made it more difficult for colleges and universities to enroll students and hire faculty from the region. At the same time, some concerned citizen groups, claiming that the academy has been too critical of US Middle East policy, have lobbied for Congressional oversight of college courses pertaining to the Middle East and Islam and called for monitoring such courses. Similar pressures have been placed on publishers.
The workshop will have a session devoted to visa issues, another to classroom monitoring, and a third to the publishing environment faced by scholars writing about the region.
If you wish to attend, please contact Kate Richardson (Katherine_Richardson@Brown.edu).
As a continuation of the discussion, a lecture by Ken Stern of the American Jewish Committee is scheduled for May 9. See details here.
Schedule for Thursday, May 3
1:00pm - 2:50pm Welcome and Introduction: Marsha Posusney
Session 1: The U.S. State Dept. and the Legal Status of Scholars
Carol Rose, executive director, ACLU of Massachusetts
Elke Breker, Brown University, Office of International Scholar and Student Services
Elizabeth Perry, Consular Officer, U.S. State Dept.
Kate Deboer, Director of Fulbright Foreign Student & Israeli-Arab scholarship programs for AMIDEAST
2:50pm - 3:10pm Coffee Break
3:10pm - 5:00pm Session 2: Academic Publishing and “The Public”
|Moderator:||James Der Derian, Director of Global Security Program, Watson Institute|
Stephen Walt, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Lynne Withey, University of California Press
Juan Cole, University of Michigan
7:30pm - 9:30pm Session 3: Campus Surveillance
|Moderator:||Mark Tessler, University of Michigan|
Lisa Anderson, Dean, School of Int’l Public Affairs, Columbia University
Robert O’Neil, University of Virginia, another member of the AAUP’s “Committee A”
Elliott Colla, Assoc. Prof. of Comparative Literature, Brown University
Biographies of Participants
Carol Rose is the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, a non-profit organization dedicated to defending liberty and realizing the protections set forth in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. A lawyer and journalist, Carol has spent her career working for and writing about human rights and civil liberties, both in the United States and abroad – including Pakistan, Nepal, Japan, Sri Lanka, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Northern Ireland, and Vietnam. As a reporter, Carol worked for United Press International, the Des Moines Register, and the New York Times. Prior to assuming her current position, she was an attorney at the Boston law firm of Hill & Barlow, where she specialized in First Amendment cases, Internet and media law, intellectual property law, and civil rights cases. She is a graduate of Stanford University (BA), the London School of Economics (MSc), and Harvard Law School (JD).
Elke Breker, M.A., M.Ed., is the Director of the Office of International Student & Scholar Services at Brown University. Since 1993 she has worked in the field of international student and scholar advising at the University of California, Davis, the University of Denver and Texas A & M University, Commerce. Prior to moving to the U.S. she taught German as a Foreign Language to international students in Germany and led groups of young adults to Egypt and the U.S. A native German, she received degrees from the Technical University of Aachen, and the University of Trier in adult education, psychology and applied linguistics. Her M.Ed in counselor education is from the University of North Texas. Over the past ten years, Elke has been active in NAFSA, Association of International Education as presenter, trainer and conference co-chair. Her most recent involvement included a term as NAFSA Academy III Lead Trainer for Region XII (California, Nevada and Hawaii). The NAFSA Academy is a Department of State sponsored training program designed to assist college and university administrators to become well rounded international educators and to promote internationalization on campus.
Elizabeth Perry is a consular officer at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC. She currently works in the Visa Office, Division of Coordination and Legislation within the Bureau of Consular Affairs. Previously, she served as a consular officer at the U.S. Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan. Her next assignment will be to Jakarta, Indonesia. Before, joining the State Department in 2004, Mrs. Perry worked in higher education as a foreign student advisor for seven years. Ms. Perry graduated from Smith College with a B.A. in East Asian Studies and from Boston University with a M. Ed in Higher Education Administration. She speaks Japanese and Russian.
Kate Deboer is Director of the Fulbright Foreign Student and Israeli-Arab Scholarship programs for America-Mideast Educational and Training Services, Inc. (AMIDEAST), a private, nonprofit organization that strengthens mutual understanding and cooperation between Americans and the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa. AMIDEAST provides English language and professional skills training, educational advising, and testing services to students in the Middle East and North Africa; and administers educational exchange programs. Founded in 1951, AMIDEAST is headquartered in Washington, DC with a network of field offices in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, West Bank/Gaza, and Yemen.
Marsha Posusney is Professor of Political Science at Bryant University and Adjunct Prof. of Int’l Relations (research) at Brown. She is the author of Labor and the State in Egypt (Columbia University Press, 1997) and co-editor of Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Regimes and Resistance (Lynne Rienner, 2005) and two other books. She has served for six years on MESA’s Committee on Academic Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa, and for three years on the APSA’s Committee on Professional Ethics which includes addressing academic freedom issues.
Juan Cole is Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History at the University of Michigan and the past president of the Middle East Studies Association. He is an internationally-recognized expert on Shiite Islam in Iraq and Iran who is fluent in Arabic, Persian and Urdu. His most recent book is Sacred Space and Holy War (IB Tauris 2002). Cole maintains a blog, Informed Consent, which is critical of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and of the U.S. presence in Iraq. Citing his blog, several prominent conservative commentators and journalists launched a public campaign against his potential hiring by Yale University last spring.
Stephen M. Walt is Robert and Rene Belfer Professor of International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He is the author of The Origins of Alliances (1987), Revolution and War (1996); and Taming American Power: The Global Response to U.S. Primacy (2006). His recent articles include “An Unnecessary War?” (Foreign Policy, Winter 2002-2003); “Beyond bin Laden: Reshaping U.S. Foreign Policy” (International Security, Winter 2001-2002); and "The Israel Lobby," London Review of Books, Vol. 28, No. 6 (March 23, 2006; co-authored with John Mearsheimer). The latter piece has put him at the center of controversy over public critiques of the U.S. relationship with Israel; Walt and Mearsheimer have claimed that the article could not be published in the U.S. because of the sensitivity of its subject matter.
Lynne Withey has been Director of the University of California Press since 2002. Prior to becoming Director, among other roles, she developed the Press's publishing program in Middle Eastern studies. In 2005, UC Press was the target of intense lobbying over its decision to publish Norman Finkelstein's Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Antisemitism and the Abuse of History, a book critical of Israel's record on human rights. Withey, a historian by training, is the author of four books, including Dearest Friend: A Life of Abigail Adams (initially published in 1981, re-issued in 2001) and Grand Tours and Cook's Tours; A History of Leisure Travel (1997). She taught history at the University of Iowa, Boston University, and the University of California at Berkeley before joining the UC Press.
James Der Derian is a Watson Institute research professor of international studies. In July 2004, he became the director of the Institute's Global Security Program. Der Derian also directs the Information Technology, War, and Peace Project in the Watson Institute's Global Security Program. Der Derian was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he completed a M.Phil. and D.Phil. in international relations. He has been a visiting scholar at the University of Southern California, MIT, Harvard, Oxford, and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. He is author of On Diplomacy: A Genealogy of Western Estrangement (1987) and Antidiplomacy: Spies, Terror, Speed, and War (1992); editor of International Theory: Critical Investigations (1995) and The Virilio Reader (1998); and co-editor with Michael Shapiro of International/Intertextual Relations: Postmodern Readings of World Politics (1989). His articles on international relations have appeared in the Review of International Studies, International Studies Quarterly, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, International Affairs, Brown Journal of World Affairs, Millennium, Alternatives, Cultural Values, and Samtiden. His articles on war, technology, and the media have appeared in the New York Times, Nation, Washington Quarterly, and Wired. His most recent book is Virtuous War: Mapping the Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network (2001).
Lisa Anderson is Dean of the School of International Public Affairs at Columbia, and a past president of the Middle East Studies Association. She is the author of Pursuing Truth, Exercising Power: Social Science and Public Policy in the Twenty-first Century (Columbia 2003); The State and Social Transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 1830–1980 (Princeton 1986); editor of Transitions to Democracy (Columbia 1999); and coeditor of The Origins of Arab Nationalism (Columbia 1991). At Columbia she served on a committee convened at the behest of the president to investigate charges, made by the David Project, of anti-Semitic behavior by some faculty in the Middle East Studies faculty; she herself was subsequently named one of America’s “100 most dangerous professors” in a recent book by David Horowitz.
Robert O'Neil is an authority on the First Amendment and past director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression at the University of Virginia, where he also served as the school’s sixth president from 1985 until 1990. He currently serves as chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Special Committee on Academic Freedom and National Security in Time of Crisis, and Director of the Ford Foundation’s Difficult Dialogues Initiative. O'Neil previously served as president of the Virginia Council for Open Government, chairman of the Council for America's First Freedom, and director of the Commonwealth Fund and the James River Corporation.
Elliott Colla - Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Brown and served as Director of the Middle East Studies concentration at Brown in 2005-06. He is the author of Conflicted Antiquities: Egyptology, Egytomania, Egyptian Modernity (Duke University press, 2007, forthcoming).
Mark Tessler - Professor of Political Science, Director of the International Institute, and Vice Provost for International Affairs at the University of Michigan. He is currently updating his book, A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, which won national honors and was named a “Notable Book of 1994” by The New York Times. He is also coauthor of Transition to Palestinian Self-Government: Practical Steps toward Israeli-Palestinian Peace, which is based on the report of an American Academy of Arts and Sciences study group composed of American, Israeli, and Palestinian scholars. He serves on the Middle East Studies Association’s Committee on Public Affairs.
Video from this event:
Event SummaryA workshop titled “The Study of the Middle East and Islam: Challenges after 9-11” recently addressed challenges the academic world faces in meeting the demand for expanded research and teaching on the region. The workshop was one of a pair of events on academic freedom organized by Watson’s Middle East and Islamic Initiatives in May. A related lecture, titled “Criticizing Israel Isn’t Anti-Semitic Except When It Is: How to Tell the Difference,” is summarized here.
The first session focused on visa issues. Panelists agreed that openness and dialogue, vital for academic freedom, necessitate better handling of visas for foreign scholars in Middle East Studies. Particular mention was made of the case of Tariq Ramadan, a European-based scholar of Islam, widely renowned, who was unable to accept a tenured position at Notre Dame when the US denied him a visa.
“What is this really about? The public’s right to know,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, as she pointed out flaws in US visa policy. The ACLU led a suit against the US government on behalf of Ramadan, the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors, and the PEN American Center.
Elizabeth Perry, a consular officer in the US State Department, responded by saying that her office is working hard to find a balance between welcoming foreigners and protecting the borders. Results have included a 14 percent increase in the issuance of relevant visas (F, M, and J) and a two-day turnaround for 97 percent of visa applicants, she said.
Stereotypes and fears of harrowing visa application processes have a chilling effect on foreign students’ consideration of US study, according to both Elke Breker, director of Brown University’s Office of International Student and Scholar Services, and Kate Deboer, director of the Fulbright Foreign Student and Israeli-Arab Scholarship programs for America-Mideast Educational and Training Services Inc. Still, there are a great many positive visa stories, as well, they said.
Taking a public stance questioning conventional wisdom is a worthy endeavor, though risky. This was the overarching message of the second panel, focused on publishing issues. Participants were Juan Cole, professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History at the University of Michigan; Stephen M. Walt, professor of international affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government; and Lynne Withey, director of the University of California Press.
“The Internet offers the opportunity for the return of the public intellectual,” said Juan Cole, writer of the widely read “Informed Comment” blog. Blogging is difficult to evaluate in academic terms, he said. “It’s off the books, academically,” in such considerations as tenure, “unless it works against you,” he quipped. Cole is a controversial figure whose blog at times has elicited intense critical responses. Still, he says it is a mystery to him that academics refrain from using such tools to deploy their expertise in a more public realm. In fact, he said, it is academics’ public debt to disseminate their findings more broadly.
Walt concurred that academics should weather the potential storm to publicly address questions they think are important. He and his colleague, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, were subjected to a barrage of public invective after the London Review of Books published their controversial article “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy.” Their main motivation is writing the article, Walt explained, was to answer the question: “Why isn’t this a subject we can talk about?” The best way to collectively develop knowledge is through heterogeneity in the academy, he said.
Withey said that university presses have a responsibility to publish different views – and that operating within a culture of academic freedom actually gives them more latitude to do so than commercial publishers. However, she observed, the UC Press’s high respect for academic freedom is dependent on extensive peer support and good lawyers, as they saw when publishing the Journal of Palestine Studies and Norman Finkelstein’s Beyond Chutzpah (University of California Press, 2005), a critique of Israel’s human rights policies. She called on universities to expand their presses in order to reach a wider audience.
The final session was devoted to the issue of classroom surveillance. Off-campus organizations have arisen in recent years pressing for congressional oversight of Middle East and Islamic Studies programs at institutes of higher learning, launching web pages devoted to identifying outspoken academic critics of Israel and/or US Middle East policy, and establishing monitoring operations in which students have been encouraged to report on, and in some cases surreptitiously record, their professors’ lectures. The panel was chaired by Mark Tessler, professor of political science, director of the International Institute, and vice provost for international affairs at the University of Michigan. Participants included Elliott Colla, associate professor of comparative literature at Brown, and Robert O’Neil, chair of the American Association of University Professors’ Special Committee on Academic Freedom and National Security in Time of Crisis. An authority on the first amendment and past director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression at the University of Virginia, O’Neil also served as the school’s sixth president from 1985 until 1990. Lisa Anderson, professor of political science and dean of the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and a past president of the Middle East Studies Association, was unable to attend but sent written comments.
Colla gave a slide show presentation focused on the rhetoric and institutional backing of monitoring groups, demonstrating their web pages’ accusations against individual academics. O’Neil then discussed the legal ramifications of such accusations, particularly if unfounded, noting that while campus surveillance is objectionable, US law gives the targets of monitoring groups little legal recourse to pursue libel charges. However, non-legal responses, such as counter-monitoring, could prove highly effective, O’Neil suggested, and he also argued that university administrators can do more to protect the integrity of the classroom. In his comments, Tessler contrasted traditional academic concepts of balance in scholarship and teaching to the charges of bias raised by monitoring groups.
Overall, while demonstrating that scholars in the Middle East/Islamic Studies area face unusual risks for adopting controversial positions, the workshop produced a consensus that academics should take greater advantage of new media and old, to reach a broader public on issues and questions they think are important.
With reporting by Watson Institute Student Rapporteur Liana Paris ‘07
An article on a related lecture, “Criticizing Israel Isn’t Anti-Semitic Except When It Is: How to Tell the Difference,” is available here.