Swarthmore to inaugurate first Palestinian student conference

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

This weekend marks the inaugural conference for the Palestinian Student Society, a national student organization formed by [redacted] as a network for Palestinian students. Using his $10,000 grant from a Lang scholarship received during his sophomore year, [redacted] started the organization after discovering that there was no organization in the U.S. for Palestinian students. Being the only Palestinian student at Swarthmore for half his years at Swarthmore, [redacted] felt the need to create an organization providing a space to discuss the “harassment and intimidation that Palestinian students routinely face.” [redacted] spent the summer networking and creating the website for the Palestinian Student Society (http://www.pssociety.org). After much hard work, [redacted] was able to create the first conference for the society. Though primarily funded by [redacted]’s grant, some events are sponsored by the President’s office, the UPenn Middle Eastern Studies department, and the Intercultural Center.

To provide Palestinian students a safe space to speak, the events on campus for the conference are primarily closed to Palestinian students. Different workshops and film screenings will be part of the conference. “Discordia,” a film about a university in Canada with a large Palestinian population, will be shown over the weekend. Workshops will encompass different issues concerning Palestinian students. Since such a large number of students will be coming to campus, the workshops will be divided into caucuses and later on the basis of student interests. One of the workshops will be tackle the issue of Palestinians in American academia. The other workshop offered this weekend concerns pro-Palestinian activism in the United States. To strengthen the fledgling Palestinian society, this conference also aims to decide the mission statement and ideas for next year’s conference.

Possibly sparking much debate on campus, Dr. Joseph Massad, a professor of middle eastern studies at Columbia University will be giving a talk this Friday at 7:00 p.m. in LPAC cinema. Dr. Joseph Massad, who offers a number of classes regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, is the subject of controversy at Columbia University. Exposed by New York City newspapers, Massad was accused of harassing Israeli students and other students of Zionist backgrounds. A later investigation by Columbia University found all the accusations against Massad to be false. After negative, often one-sided publicity surrounding Massad and other Palestinian issues, [redacted] adds that it is important for “students to know the other side and hear him themselves.”

While most events of the conference are closed to Palestinian students, all students are invited to attend “Swat Arabian Nights,” a party held Saturday night at Paces to welcome Palestinian students at Swarthmore. With over a hundred students coming to campus from all over the U.S., hosts are needed. Students interested in hosting a Palestinian student for the weekend are asked to email Shadi Rohana ’08 at srohana1 with their extension number and campus residence.

In this article, errors may have appeared. The article says that accusations made against Dr. Joseph Massad were determined to be false (as per the information given to the Gazette originally by those organizing the conference).

The following text comes from the part of the official Ad Hoc Grievance Committee Report that discusses the most serious of accusations surrounding this controversy:

“Upon extensive deliberation, the committee finds it credible that Professor Massad became angered at a question that he understood to countenance Israeli conduct of which he disapproved, and that he responded heatedly. While we have no reason to believe that Professor Massad intended to expel Ms. Shanker from the classroom (she did not, in fact, leave the class), his rhetorical response to her query exceeded commonly accepted bounds by conveying that her question merited harsh public criticism.”

It is important to note, however, that the report also said, “Further, three participants in the class who were interviewed by the committee — two graduate student teaching assistants and an undergraduate — do not recall such an episode. Nor is it recorded in the teaching evaluations made available to [the report].”

In reference to many accusations, the report also states, “Across the spectrum of these concerns, we found no evidence of any statements made by the faculty that could reasonably be construed as anti-semitic. Professor Massad, for one, has been categorical in his classes concerning the unacceptability of anti-semitic views.”

Finally, the report states, “We have no basis for believing that Professor Massad systematically suppressed dissenting views in his classroom. To the contrary, there is ample evidence of his willingness — as part of a deliberate pedagogical strategy — to permit anyone who wished to do so to comment or raise a question during his lectures.”

The full text of the report is present at:

Although this report has been released by Columbia, not everyone agrees with its conclusions, and opinions on the matter do vary. Some feel that information has been left out of the report. One website, (http://www.counterpunch.org/dols04112005.html) claims that “The committee’s report fails to address the fact that the student, Deena Shanker, gave three different versions of the incident.” The Gazette was not able to find another source to confirm this. It is clear that this issue is controversial, and the only certain information we can provide is the official stance on the matter taken by Columbia at the link noted above.

In the same article, in the sentence that reads “Exposed by New York City newspapers, Massad was accused of harassing Israeli students and other students of Zionist backgrounds,” the students should be referred to as Israeli and pro-Israeli.

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