Friday, February 21, 2014

Ramaz Explains Why they Disinvited Rashid Kalidi


Dear Ramaz Parents and Faculty,

We want to make you aware of publicity surrounding an invitation that Ramaz extended--and later rescinded--to Professor Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, and Director of the Middle East Institute of Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs. As this receives increased media attention, it is important for you to know the background and Ramaz's position.

About a month ago, the Ramaz Politics Club, known as RamPo, invited Professor Rashid Khalidi to speak to Ramaz students. As you know, Ramaz is a school with a long tradition of openness and debate, so the students felt it was an appropriate invitation. Our students are encouraged to have candid discussions and hear diverse views on all subjects, including the Middle East conflict and the Palestinian perspective.

When I learned of this invitation, I, along with others, felt that the controversy would be inevitable and would massively overshadow any conversation, and make an educational experience impossible. Professor Khalidi, who is an international personality of great political stature, was not the right partner for "dialogue" with high school students, and we needed to cancel his visit.

In an effort to maintain a professional and respectful relationship with Professor Khalidi, it was very important that I meet with him personally to explain why we did not think his visit was appropriate. After an amicable and civilized discussion, which included a recognition that we were both graduate students at Oxford at the same time, he acknowledged he understood the issues at hand. The entire school appreciates Professor Khalidi's realistic understanding of the school's position.

Please note that the issue has never been about whether or not students should hear another view; they should. Our question was, "Is this the appropriate program?" To this end, we are working with RamPo to arrange an event that will provide the program content they originally envisioned.

Throughout this process, I have been speaking to the RamPo students and have come to admire their passion and engagement. We are working with them to navigate a delicate political situation, respecting their wish for open exchange of ideas, but also being mindful of multiple sensitivities within our varied school constituencies.

As always, please let me know if you have any questions.

Shabbat Shalom,

Paul Shaviv

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