At least that’s what the loony left would have you believe. The reality is much less sinister. Kovel’s contract at Bard ended and he was let go due to lack of funds and poor student evaluations.
Inside Higher Ed reports:
In his letter, Kovel argues that his position at Bard deteriorated as his opposition to Zionism grew and became more public. He cites his various public statements as well as the links of Bard’s president, Leon Botstein, to Israel. Botstein is musical director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and Kovel’s letter cites as problematic a visit by the orchestra to Bard’s campus in which the national anthems of the United States and Israel were played. (While Bard does have ties to Israel, it notably has ties to Palestinian higher ed that may be deeper than those of most institutions, just this week announcing a series of joint programs with Al Quds University.)
A Bard spokesman declined to comment on the situation, citing the confidentiality of personnel actions. But an evaluation of Kovel, which he released, suggests that his “long and productive career” at Bard has been problematic of late. The evaluation notes an increasing number of student complaints about Kovel’s lack of organization, which he has previously explained by saying that he likes his courses to focus on current material.
Kovel isn’t the only instructor who was fired in this round of cuts. Here is a Bard student commenting on what is happening in other departments:
I am a student at Bard College. I’m a dance major, and really, I don’t think he’s being treated any differently than MANY of the non-tenured professors at Bard right now.
The exact same weekend, the dance department let go two of its part time professors who had been working there for 20 years. That’s two professors out of a total of six in the department. And the two let go were some of the favored in the department overall. Same goes for the theater department, who let go one of their favored professors.
Now, I’m not saying that Joel Kovel’s nonrenewal has nothing to do with politics. I just think it’s important to know that many other professors with no political issues with President Botstein were fired at the same time.
In case you an unfamiliar with Kovel, he is a psychiatrist, professor of Social Studies and an author of numerous books including White Racism, A Psychohistory (1970), Red Hunting in the Promised Land (1994) and most recently, Overcoming Zionism (2007), which is published by far-left Pluto Press.
After the University of Michigan Press halted distribution of Overcoming Zionism, the standard anti-Zionist authors and organizations expressed their outrage. I blogged about the University of Michigan Press’ decision to end their partnership with Pluto Press here. Kovel and Pluto Press editor David Castle founded the Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism (CODZ) to “defend the principle of free speech on debate over Israel.” Israel is the focus of undergraduate and graduate courses, seminars by organizations on the left and right and demonstrations (pro and con) on college campuses across the United States. Organizations like CODZ do not support free speech, they want to control the debate.
Ron Radosh has an excellent post regarding Kovel. Here is a bit:
[W]hen Bard College announced that it was firing Professor Joel Kovel, his followers and supporters immediately tried to mount a campaign claiming that Kovel had been dismissed from his position because of his open and impassioned attack on Israel and his argument that Israel should be replaced by a unitary secular state made up of both former Israelis and Palestinians. Kovel himself wrote a statement about his termination in which he writes that, “If the world stands outraged at Israeli aggression in Gaza, it should also be outraged at institutions in the United States that grant Israel impunity.”
Kovel goes on to actually accuse Bard of firing him because he believes that it is the role of an educator to criticize the injustices in the world, and that Bard’s failure to not oppose Israel’s occupation and aggression makes it an accomplice in the perpetuation of Israel’s “state violence.” Since he implies that Bard defends both Zionism and Israel ( he points out that its President Leon Botstein is musical director of the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, and that when it played at Bard the group performed both the Israeli and American national anthems) he argues that the worse Israel’s behavior, “the more strenuous must be the suppression of criticism.” His major point: Bard College “has suppressed critical engagement with Israel and Zionism, and therefore has enabled abuses such as have occurred and are occurring in Gaza.”
As for Kovel’s record at Bard, I have learned from sources that among other things, he used only his own books in the courses he taught. And as for his scholarly record, his publications include books like Red Hunting in the Promised Land:Anticommunism and the Making of America, which was published by Basic Books in 1994. I have read that book by Kovel, and on the basis of his analysis and argument, I would have hesitated in appointing anyone who wrote such drivel to teach in the humanities, when his own field is that of psychology, and who had previously been a Professor of Psychiatry at Albert Einstein College. In this volume, he uses his psychological credentials to essentially argue that those who oppose communism in the United States- the anti-Communists- were essentially mentally ill.
You can find Kovel’s statement at numerous lefty blogs including this one. The vast majority seem to agree that Bard is an outpost of the Zionist colonial project and many think it is a conservative school. This shows how far out these people are. Bard has closer relations with Palestinian institutions of higher education than most colleges in the U.S. and a conservative school would not have a position in the department of social studies, let alone a chair in the department, named after communist spy Alger Hiss.