Statement Regarding Termination By Bard College
In January, 1988, I was appointed to the Alger Hiss Chair of Social Studies at
This document argues that this termination of service is prejudicial and motivated neither by intellectual nor pedagogic considerations, but by political values, principally stemming from differences between myself and the Bard administration on the issue of Zionism. There is of course much more to my years at Bard than this, including another controversial subject, my work on ecosocialism (The Enemy of Nature). However, the evidence shows a pattern of conflict over Zionism only too reminiscent of innumerable instances in this country in which critics of
A BRIEF CHRONOLOGY
• 2002. This was the first year I spoke out nationally about Zionism. In October, my article, "Zionism's Bad Conscience," appeared in Tikkun. Three or four weeks later, I was called into President Leon Botstein's office, to be told my Hiss Chair was being taken away. Botstein said that he had nothing to do with the decision, then gratuitously added that it had not been made because of what I had just published about Zionism, and hastened to tell me that his views were diametrically opposed to mine.
• 2003. In January I published a second article in Tikkun, "Left-Anti-Semitism' and the Special Status of Israel," which argued for a One-State solution to the dilemmas posed by Zionism. A few weeks later, I received a phone call at home from Dean Dominy, who suggested, on behalf of Executive Vice-President Dimitri Papadimitriou, that perhaps it was time for me to retire from Bard. I declined. The result of this was an evaluation of my work and the inception, in 2004, of the current half-time contract as "Distinguished Professor."
• 2006. I finished a draft of Overcoming Zionism. In January, while I was on a Fellowship in
• 2007. "Overcoming Zionism" was now on the market, arguing for a One-State solution (and sharply criticizing, among others, Martin Peretz for a scurrilous op-ed piece against Rachel Corrie in the Los Angeles Times. Peretz is an official in AIPAC's foreign policy think-tank, and at the time a Bard Trustee—though this latter fact was not pointed out in the book). In August, Overcoming Zionism was attacked by a watchdog Zionist group, StandWithUs/Michigan, which succeeded in pressuring the book's
• 2008. Despite some reservations by the faculty, I was able to teach a course on Zionism. In my view, and that of most of the students, it was carried off successfully. Concurrently with this, another evaluation of my work at Bard was underway. Unlike previous evaluations, in 1996 and 2003, this was unenthusiastic. It was cited by Dean Dominy as instrumental in the decision to let me go.
IRREGULARITIES IN THE EVALUATION PROCESS
The evaluation committee included Professor Bruce Chilton, along with Professors Mark Lambert and Kyle Gann. Professor Chilton is a member of the Social Studies division, a distinguished theologian, and the campus' Protestant chaplain. He is also active in Zionist circles, as chair of the EpiscopalJewish Relations Committee in the Episcopal Diocese of New York, and a member of the Executive Committee of Christians for Fair Witness on the
Of course, Professor Chilton has the right to his opinion as an academic and a citizen. Nonetheless, the presence of such a voice on the committee whose conclusion was instrumental in the decision to remove me from the Bard faculty is highly dubious. Most definitely, Professor Chilton should have recused himself from this position. His failure to do so, combined with the fact that the decision as a whole was made in context of adversity between myself and the Bard administration, renders the process of my termination invalid as an instance of what the College's Faculty Handbook calls a procedure "designed to evaluate each faculty member fairly and in good faith."
I still strove to make my future at Bard the subject of reasonable negotiation. However, my efforts in this direction were rudely denied by Dean Dominy's curt and dismissive letter (at the urging, according to her, of Vice-President Papadimitriou), which plainly asserted that there was nothing to talk over and that I was being handed a fait accompli. In view of this I considered myself left with no other option than the release of this document.
ON THE RESPONSIBILITY OF INTELLECTUALS
Bard has effectively crafted for itself an image as a bastion of progressive thought. Its efforts were crowned with being anointed in 2005 by the Princeton Review as the second-most progressive college in the
A fundamental principle of mine is that the educator must criticize the injustices of the world, whether or not this involves him or her in conflict with the powers that be. The systematic failure of the academy to do so plays no small role in the perpetuation of injustice and state violence. In no sphere of political action does this principle apply more vigorously than with the question of Zionism; and in no country is this issue more strategically important than in the
For further information: www.codz.org; Joel Kovel, "Overcoming Impunity," The Link, Jan-March 2009 (www.ameu.org).
To write the Bard administration:
President Leon Botstein <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Executive Vice-President Dimitri Papadimitriou <email@example.com>