Defending Academic Freedom at Columbia College


March 10, 2014
Contact: Eric Ruder

Stand up for academic freedom:
Why is Palestine taboo at Columbia College?

Columbia College students, faculty and community members are organizing a campaign to defend academic freedom after Columbia administrators retaliated against an instructor for the content of his course about the Israel/Palestine conflict. The campaign includes a petition (; March 11 and 12 call-in days to the Columbia College administration; and a public forum featuring Ali Abunimah, a leading proponent of Palestinian rights (

As part of his course, Prof. Iymen Chehade screens the Oscar-nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras, which depicts popular resistance to Israeli military occupation. After a student alleged that the film showed that Chehade’s course is “biased,” Chehade was summoned for a meeting with Dr. Steven Corey, who is the chair of the Department of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences. Corey told Chehade to teach his course in a more “balanced” manner, and then Columbia College withdrew one section of his course just hours after it had been made available to students registering for classes.

“Academic freedom entails not only the right to speak from a particular perspective, but the freedom from being compelled to engage in a particular type of speech,” said Chehade. “The frequent demand from apologists for Israeli colonialism that any discussion of the conflict be ‘balanced’ would be considered absurd in most other contexts. For example, must every presentation about the African-American civil rights movement include a speaker who will attempt to justify the denial of these rights?”

Student and faculty supporters of Chehade and all those interested in the principle of academic freedom are circulating a petition (, holding March 11 and 12 call-in days to Columbia College administrators, and hosting a March 20 public forum entitled “Why is Palestine taboo at Columbia College?” (

The March 20 forum features Prof. Iymen Chehade; Ali Abunimah, America’s best known advocate for Palestinian rights and author most recently of The Battle for Justice in Palestine; John Wilson of the American Association of University Professors-Illinois; and Columbia college students Ava Ginsburg and Ahmed Hamad, who are both members of Students for Justice in Palestine/Jewish Voice for Peace at Columbia College. After the speaker presentations, there will be ample time for audience discussion and debate.

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