Respect Academic Freedom!
This petition is in protest of Columbia College’s decision, following a student complaint about “bias,” to cancel one of the two sections of a course about the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The course is well grounded in fact and presents a diverse overview of Israeli/Palestinian history, including interviews with both Israelis and Palestinians. The class receives overwhelmingly positive evaluations by students, and many report having to wait to get in to the class. After registration opened last November, however, Columbia College removed its second section of the course only hours after it was posted.
After Professor Chehade’s in-class screening of the Oscar-nominated film 5 Broken Cameras, which depicts life under and popular resistance to Israeli military occupation, a student complained about “bias.” Dr. Steven Corey, the chair of the Department of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences, then held a meeting with Professor Chehade informing him that he should address the subject matter in a more “balanced” way.
Showing a movie depicting popular resistance to Israeli occupation does not constitute bias, and retaliating against a professor for engaging students about pressing social issues is a blatant violation of academic freedom. Furthermore, professors are not obligated to present an opposing view to every opinion or fact presented in class. Columbia College’s own academic freedom policies protect professors against such interference. The cancelation also restricts Columbia students from participating in learning and discussion about Israel-Palestine, a topic for which they have demonstrated a clear interest.
Help defend academic freedom by signing this petition telling Columbia College to reinstate and maintain the course offerings of Professor Chehade’s Israeli-Palestinian Conflict class.
To: Dr. Louise Love, Provost, Columbia College
Dr. Deborah Holdstein, Dean, School of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Dr. Steven Corey, Chair, Dept. of Humanities, History, & Social Sciences
We, the undersigned, wish to express our grave concern about Columbia College’s retaliation against Professor Iymen Chehade for the content of his course, The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
The circumstances suggest that the college’s decision was not based on legitimate academic considerations, but rather avoidance of controversy and the desire to keep Columbia courses from straying from the mainstream discourse.
This attempt to stifle the discussion of Israel and Palestine is a violation of academic freedom and a disservice to the academic community and to Columbia’s students. As such, we, the undersigned, urge the administration at Columbia College to uphold its commitment to academic freedom and to its students by reinstating and maintaining the course offerings of Professor Chehade’s Israeli-Palestinian Conflict course.
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