December 14, 2005: From the Editor
Princeton professors are known for speaking their minds, thank heavens, even if their listeners don’t agree with them. And so the anxiety expressed by faculty members contacted for this issue’s cover story on teaching about the Middle East was unusual.
As writer Christopher Shea ’91 notes in his article, which begins on page 20, most of the professors agreed to be interviewed only if they would be permitted to approve their own quotes before publication — a departure from PAW’s usual practice. (One professor objected to a quote, and it was not used.) It’s understandable: Readers of PAW’s letters column will know that few issues fire more passions than the Middle East (admissions being the notable exception). The professors have reason to believe that their words will be scrutinized and posted — not necessarily in context — on Web sites on both sides of the Mideast divide.
Despite the sensitivity, Princeton has been lucky to have hosted open and insightful debates about Mideast issues, minus the ugliness that has visited many other campuses. Recent speakers have included high-profile visitors with starkly different viewpoints; pointed questions generally are asked — and answered — with respect.
Lately, observers and critics of Mideast studies programs nationwide have been shining their spotlight not on one-time lecturers, but on views discussed inside the classroom, where questions are born and ideas developed every day. Here, too, Princeton faculty members bring a wide variety of perspectives to the table — a mix that seems likely to grow. Rashid Khalidi, a Columbia University scholar of Palestinian nationalism and outspoken critic of Israel, is being considered for a faculty position, while Daniel C. Kurtzer, who recently stepped down as U.S. ambassador to Israel, joined the Woodrow Wilson School faculty this month as the first holder of a new visiting professorship in Middle East policy studies. As one professor told Shea, teaching about the Arab-Israeli conflict can be a thankless job. But it’s an important one, and with this article, PAW hopes to provide some insight into the pressures these teachers face and how they go about their task.
In planning this issue, we had hoped that our cover would picture a glorious bonfire celebrating the first time since 1994 that Princeton beat both Harvard and Yale in football in a single year. As most readers know by now, it was not to be. Still, Princeton athletes have had some great contests and surprising moments this semester. Sports editor Brett Tomlinson and David Baumgarten ’06, managing editor for sports at The Daily Princetonian, worked together with PAW photographers to capture some of the stories behind these moments, which all played out over 48 hours in October. Their work begins on page 14.