Thursday, June 09, 2016

How AUB succumbed to direct American Zionist pressures: MESA's Academic Freedom committee responds

"We write on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) of North America and its Committee on Academic Freedom in order to register our concerns regarding the recent cancellation by the university administration of a search for director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR) at the American University of Beirut (AUB). The cancellation of such a search by administrative fiat is a serious violation of the academic freedom of the AUB faculty as they exercise their autonomous judgment in order to determine the candidates they deem best fit to contribute to the university community. 
MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3,000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.
In 2015, CASAR ran a search for a new director, led by its interim director, visiting Professor Lisa Hajjar of the University of California, Santa Barbara, along with a committee that included AUB Professors Hatim El-Hibri, Waleed Hazbun, Syrine Hout, Anjali Nath and Adam Waterman. In mid-March 2016 the search committee submitted its recommendations to Dean Patrick McGreevy that the position be offered to Dr. Steven Salaita, who holds the Edward Said Chair of American Studies at AUB (2015-16). On March 29, Dean McGreevy took the CASAR director recommendation to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Advisory Committee. As English would be the most appropriate disciplinary home for Salaita, the chair of the English Department intended to put the matter of an appointment to a vote at the next meeting."
On March 30, the university unexpectedly cancelled the search, claiming there had been “procedural irregularities,” namely, that junior faculty and visiting professors were not permitted to serve on search committees. As chapter 2, section 3.10.b of the University Faculty Manual states, “evaluation of candidates for appointment shall be restricted to the voting faculty members of equal or higher ranks than those of the faculty members being considered,” which would seem to invalidate the service of Professor Waterman, who holds the rank of Assistant Professor, and Professor Hajjar, who is a visiting professor. However, Section 5, article 3, of the AUB Bylaws of the Faculties indicates, “the dean can appoint faculty members of appropriate professorial rank from other departments/tracks to serve on extended departmental committees.” In other words, it was permissible according to university regulations for Professor Waterman to serve on the committee. Furthermore, not only does this also mean that it was permissible for Professor Hajjar to lead the search committee, but given her position as acting director of CASAR, it was absolutely essential. While university regulations stipulate that visiting professors may not vote on such appointments, there was no procedural violation here given that the chair of a search committee does not have voting privileges. Indeed, Professor Hajjar did not cast a vote."