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Saturday, April 23, 2005


Gentlemen's Agreement at Princeton: Palestinians Need Not Apply

Some of the more egregious comments from this Princetonian (April 21) story:

In recent weeks, Jewish students and alumni have voiced their concern to Nassau Hall about the candidacy of Columbia professor Rashid Khalidi for a new position on Princeton's faculty.

Nearly a month ago, Columbia released a 24-page report concerning allegations of anti-Semitism on its campus. Though Khalidi was not the subject of the report, he has been associated with the professors who were being investigated, and he has been a centerpiece of the politicized battle over Middle Eastern studies at Columbia.

Khalidi's critics portray him as a staunch pro-Palestinian advocate, and they fear that he would push his purported views in the classroom.

"Some Princeton alumni are very concerned about the possibility of Princeton University hiring an individual who has a political agenda rather than a scholarly approach to history," said Arlene Pedovitch '80, interim director of the Center for Jewish Life (CJL).

"I've told Nassau Hall, the administration, that I'm getting a lot of phone calls and emails from alumni," Pedovitch added, though she couldn't specify the quantity. "I know that the University as well as the development office likes to be made aware of such contact."

"Alumni have also been contacting administration officials directly, Pedovitch said. "Princeton alumni are not shy about sharing their views."

Pedovitch also fears that the appointment of Khalidi would renew the image of Princeton as a school hostile to Jews. In the 1950s, Jewish students faced discrimination on parts of campus, and even during the 1990s some expressed concern about the numeric decline of Jewish students admitted.

"Many alumni and students are concerned that a potential appointment of Professor Khalidi will be used as an excuse to describe Princeton as anti-Semitic again," Pedovitch said. "But this University is a wonderful place for Jewish students."

Jonathan Elist '07 considered organizing a petition against Khalidi's possible appointment but concluded that would not be the best strategy. He also said, though, that "it's going to be a problem come admissions" if Khalidi is chosen.

The controversy at Columbia and the concerns about Khalidi have reignited the debate about the role of academics' political views in shaping scholarship.

"We make all of our appointments on the basis of academic merit and scholarship," history chair Adelman said. "And what people's political persuasions might be are immaterial."

Elist, however, thinks the University should consider more than just scholarship in this case. While he acknowledges that Khalidi is a "very appealing" scholar, he worries that "on a perception level, it's not good for Princeton to have someone like that on their faculty."

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