News | Academics

Over 300 protest tenure denial of Barnard professor Abu-Manneh

Supporters of Barnard English professor Bashir Abu-Manneh presented administrators on Monday with over 300 signatures opposing the college’s decision to deny him tenure.

In an email to President Debora Spar, Provost Linda Bell, and English department chair Peter Platt, supporters said that the effective firing of Abu-Manneh would be “an immense loss” to Barnard and argued that it raised questions about the college’s dedication to academic diversity.

In a statement to Spectator, Spar said that the decision not to give Abu-Manneh tenure came after “a highly rigorous and exacting process” by the tenure committee.

“Though all such decisions are final, it does not diminish the impact and influence Prof. Abu-Manneh has obviously had on his students and colleagues,” she said.

One of Abu-Manneh’s former students, Nancy Elshami, BC ’10, wrote a letter to the tenure committee on Abu-Manneh’s behalf. When she learned he had been denied tenure, she was outraged, leading her to start the petition.

“As students and alums, we believe there is a lot to lose with this decision,” Elshami said in an email.

Elshami said that the college would lose a “truly tremendous” professor in Abu-Manneh, who serves as an assistant professor of English and the director of the film studies program.

“On another level I think it has negative implications on how the university serves to foster intellectual diversity and academic freedoms,” she added.

Abu-Manneh is an outspoken supporter of Palestine and has written articles critiquing Israel’s actions in the conflict, leading some signatories to question if his political positions played a role in Barnard’s decision.

Most students and alumni who signed the petition, though, were upset that Barnard refused tenure to a professor whom they admired and respected.

“It calls into question for us the value the university places on excellence in teaching,” Elshami said.

Justine Lyons, BC ’13, took the class “Cultures of Colonialism: Palestine/Israel” with Abu-Manneh in her sophomore year and signed the petition as soon as she saw the link on Facebook.

“I signed it because I believe he’s a great asset to this university and it would be a shame for him not to be given tenure,” Lyons said.

Reviews of Abu-Manneh on CULPA were consistently positive, with some students calling him “the best professor at Barnard.” The site awarded Abu-Manneh a “silver nugget,” a distinction awarded to some of the most positively reviewed professors.

Fatimah Rimawi, BC ’12, had Abu-Manneh as an adviser on her senior thesis. She called his guidance “invaluable.”

“I was really confused how an amazing professor like professor Abu-Manneh could be leaving Barnard,” Rimawi said. “I think this calls into question the transparency of the tenure process.”

“I think that the Barnard administration would expect nothing less of its Barnard students” than to question the college’s motivations, she added.

Though Spar emphasized that the decision is final, Elshami said she hopes “that this example of independent student mobilization can empower other students and compel them to play a part in University politics.”

news@columbiaspectator.com

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Anonymous posted on

Great work and thank you to all protesting the refusal of tenure!

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dushinco posted on

All you Naive Barnard Bitches need to realize that you go to a school with building names like Sulzberger and Lehman. There are higher authorities to answer to than CULPA.

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Anonymous posted on

Spec really wasn't thinking when they made it more difficult to downvote a post than to actually post.

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ColumbiaSpectator posted on

That's a platform-wide change on Disqus. Not us!

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Anonymous posted on

Bashir was an awesome teacher when I had him. Really open-minded, informative, and fun. I'm sad for future Barnard students who will not get to take his classes.

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jaylemeux posted on

"“It calls into question for us the value the university places on excellence in teaching,” Elshami said."

Well you can go ahead and stop questioning. Tenure is based on publication. The university is not interested in your petty concerns about whether professors know how to teach.

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Anonymous posted on

The University (be it Columbia University or the University in a more general sense) may not be interested in teaching, but Barnard College ostensibly is -- it says so right in their mission statement ("With a dedicated faculty of scholars distinguished in their respective fields, Barnard is a community of accessible teachers and engaged students who participate together in intellectual risk-taking and discovery" -- http://barnard.edu/about/liber.... "Distinguished" certainly implies publications & it definitely is the first point mentioned, but teaching is in there too.

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Anonymous posted on

Bashir is not just a good teacher, but an excellent scholar who has published one book and is en route to publishing the next. Never before has there been such a mobilization by students for a tenure case...which further calls into question the nature of this process and the ramifications this decision will have. The University needs to be held accountable to its students, and it needs to be called out for it's absurdly hypocritical 'values'. We may have the capacity to be 'bitches', but we're most certainly not naive.

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Anonymous posted on

I agree with your general point but feel compelled to nitpick with your "never before" statement. Try searching "Thaddeus Russel" or "Nadia Abu El-Haj" on this website, for example. (Or on google, as these cases, too, drew national attention). Just more reason for Barnard administrators to rethink the goals and the transparency of the tenure process.

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Anonymous posted on

sorry for the double post -- was having computer issues

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Anonymous posted on

I agree with your general sentiment, but take issue with the statement that starts with 'never before.' A quick search for "Thaddeus Russel" or Nadia Abu El-Haj on this website (or on Google, as these stories also made national news) will prove otherwise. Bashir's case needn't be unique for there to be evidence of a problematic trend -- in fact the opposite is true. That his fate is not, unfortunately, uncommon at Barnard should be impetus for Barnard administrators to re-examine the purpose and transparency of their tenure process.

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Anonymous posted on

This is the worst thing ever.

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Marion I. Lipshutz posted on

I'm so sad to hear this! Prof. Abu Manneh took the time to exchange lengthy e-mails with me on issues dealing with Palestine and Israel even though I'm not one of his students. He is considerate, erudite, and a man of great integrity. It will be a great loss to the students of Barnard College if he is not rehired!

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