Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Levy gets results-- sort of.

Ever since Campus Watch went online, I've been complaining about it, and in particular about its pages on the University of Chicago (the pages I am, after all, best-equipped to assess). The relevant pages are here and here; my past comments can be accessed from the "Campus watch" tags in the menu bar to the left. I've said that they were sloppy, unreliable, based on anonymous rumor, and involved issues with no relationship to Campus Watch's own account of its mission. In particular, despite Daniel Pipes' statement on television that the site is about Middle East studies and not about anti-Semitism, these pages are mostly about anti-Semitism.

These two pages-- and, as far as I've been able to tell, only these two pages on the entire site-- now have a new disclaimer:

"Note: Student and faculty submissions to Campus Watch are screened for substance and tone, and are selected based upon their overall relevance to the study of Middle East studies in America. The opinions and assertions of the authors are theirs alone."

Much of Campus Watch consists of something innocuous and even useful: links to articles throughout the campus and non-campus press about issues like divestment from Israel, the suppression of pro-Israeli speech, and so on. The now-defunct "dossiers" on individual faculty members mostly consisted of links to those professors' own publications. But these "Reports from Campus" are different; they're not published anywhere else, and seem to have been assembled for the purpose of publication on the Campus Watch site. Campus Watch also encourages the submission of more such reports, with the author's name optional. For the website to continue to publish these "reports from campus" and then to distance itself from them seems odd to me. The disclaimer seems entirely inadequate. (The relevance to Middle East Studies, for instance, is nonexistent for many of the incidents reported.) But I'm pleased that Pipes and his people finally got around to being embarrassed enough by these reports to partially disavow them. They ought to be embarrassed enough to take them down.

Meanwhile, my speculation a few weeks ago that Martin Kramer was less than thrilled with Campus Watch (which falls under the same umbrella organization as his own work) has been, I think, partially disproven and partially confirmed. I'll chalk it up as a win. On his blog Sandstorm (links don't seem to be working right now) he says that he agrees with Campus Watch's view of Middle East Studies and of the general situation on campus but that their choice of means and rhetoric was pretty unfortunate. That, in the end, isn't very different from my view. Kramer ends with more of a rousing rah-rah for the site than I'd've given; but I think it's fair to say that he expresses a significant amount of discomfort with the way they've gone about things.

After this post I'm off again-- to Montreal, this time. Even if I were going to be in Chicago I wouldn't spend the weekend online; I'd go see Neil Gaiman...

No comments: