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Campus Watch By: Jonathan Calt Harris
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, September 23, 2003

"The teacher ought also to be especially on his guard against taking unfair advantage of the students' immaturity by indoctrinating him with the teacher's own opinions before the student has had an opportunity fairly to examine other opinions upon the matters of question, and before he has sufficient knowledge and ripeness in judgment to be entitled to form any definitive opinion of his own.

So asserted Columbia University’s John Dewey in 1915 as founding president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). Such statements touch at the very heart of Campus Watch, a project designed to review and improve Middle Eastern studies in America.


This week, as Campus Watch is celebrating its one-year mark, the problems that Dewey sought to prevent still persist.  Indeed, anti-Americanism, apologetics for Islamic violence, extremist “educators”and analytical errors are all still rampant in Middle East studies – and professors are still exploiting their position to indoctrinate students.


But one year into our project, we are certain that we have made a difference.


For example, a University of Chicago student writes that due to Campus Watch, “professors have entirely stopped launching personal attacks on students who disagree with them.” The student goes on to stress the point, because, “in the past, some students would self-censor for fear of being the object of personal attacks.”[1] 


Revelations like this are remarkable considering that one of the frequent criticisms of CW from the professorate is that we have the audacity to ask students for their opinions about what they are taught. The professors decry this as an attempt to “stifle debate.”


In truth, asking students to talk about what they are taught should be seen as increasing debate. Are students actually expected to refuse to discuss that which they have paid tens of thousands of dollars to learn?


A closer analysis reveals that such complaints constitute a smokescreen. The real problem the university establishment has with Campus Watch is rooted in a firm desire to protect a very corrupt status quo.


In reviewing Middle East studies, it quickly becomes apparent that this academic milieu is unaccountable. Questions about empiricism, accuracy, and external scrutiny – concepts all quite common in other academic disciplines – are viewed with open disdain and outrage.


Campus Watch, in posting the views of radical and/or errant professors, prompted a sudden and dramatic increase in the level of public scrutiny. This unwanted attention required many professors to defend their positions as “indisputable facts” and lash out at anyone who questioned their methodology or conclusions.  


But there is an inherent flaw in their thinking.  The same general public that pays for the very existence of Middle East studies through tuition, donations, and taxes, is not only entitled but in fact obligated to question what their money funds.


With that in mind, Campus Watch marched ahead, demanding increased transparency on campus. The academics lashed back with personal attacks against the project’s director, Daniel Pipes. More tellingly, their panic was palpable. As one student writes:


The reason faculty and administrators hate CW so much is that it is a real threat to this bureaucratic strategy of hiding unpleasant or unpopular trends from alumni and donors.  In my opinion alumni and donors should be able to know precisely which trends they are supporting, and should be able to find out if liberal education is being threatened by new trends.  Campus Watch allows them to find out these things.[2] 


This anxiety resulted in great cries of “McCarthyism” and “stifling academic freedom.” Unfortunately for these alarmists, the outcome of this effort was not what they had sought.


For its part, Campus Watch defended its reason for being merely by staying true to its mission statement. The more one reads and searches our website and articles, the more obvious it becomes that Campus Watch is exactly what it claims to be – an open forum of information about Middle Eastern studies. There is no need to embellish or exaggerate; the radicalism and errant analysis speaks for itself.


Even more telling is the fact that our critics’ work and articles are published all over our webpages, but you will certainly never find our pieces gracing theirs.


We post corrections and additions to pieces suggested by our critics, and exhaustively footnote and reference all of our own research. But those who criticize the project maintain no such rigor.


Many opponents cite quotations and comments long since removed, and then act as if updating a website is in some way nefarious. But most often, those shouting the loudest have never even visited our site.


Obviously, there is more to do.


Until we shut it down last week, the University of Michigan was passing off a radical Wahhabi indoctrination website as a reference center for questions on the tenets of Islam. Shockingly, this site appeared under the auspices of a federally subsidized Middle East center.[3]


Problems still persist on other campuses. At Berkeley, members of the Saudi family, the same members that support Hamas, Islamic Jihad and pay the families of suicide bombers, also bankroll programs at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies.[4] University of Chicago graduate students write us asking where they can take Arabic language courses and not be taught to hate America.[5]


Campus Watch will engage these problems head on and stay true to the mission we have begun. Thanks to this project, there is already a growing public awareness of the bias in Middle East studies. Further, this project has spawned a vibrant, growing network of students, faculty, alumni and parents who expect higher education to deliver on its promise of an open forum.


As long as Middle East academics continue to neglect to do their part, Campus Watch will continue to encourage what should be considered the cornerstone of education:  increased debate, increased free speech and increased public understanding of Middle East studies in America.

[1] Student, University of Chicago, August 6th, 2003.

[2] Student, University of Chicago, August 6th, 2003.

[3] Emails from CMENAS staff., September 10th, 2003. 

[4] "Where is the Money From?" by David Abraham, Adam Cramer and Robert Enayati, Berkeley Jewish Journal May 2003

[5] Student emails, August, 24, 2003.

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