Who Are Joseph Massad and the Other Columbia Professors Mentioned in the House Hearing?

Several Columbia faculty members — and particularly their apparent pro-Palestinian stances — were in the spotlight at Wednesday’s hearing.

One of the professors, the focus of Representative Tim Walberg’s questioning, was Joseph Andoni Massad. Dr. Massad, who is of Palestinian Christian descent, teaches modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia, where he also received his Ph.D. in political science.

Long known for his anti-Israel positions, he published a controversial article in The Electronic Intifada last October, in the wake of the Hamas attack, describing it as a “resistance offensive” staged in retaliation to Israel’s settler-colonies near the Gaza border.

The piece drew a visceral response and demands for his dismissal in a petition by a Columbia student that was signed by tens of thousands of people. The petition specifically criticized Dr. Massad’s use of the word “awesome” to describe the scene of the attack.

Dr. Massad’s posture has drawn controversy for years. When he was awarded tenure in 2009, 14 Columbia professors expressed their concern in a letter to the provost. Generally, professors with tenure face a much higher bar for termination than those without the status.

More recently, however, professors nationally have rallied to support him, emphasizing his academic right to voice his opinion.

In testimony responding to questions from Mr. Walberg, a Michigan Republican, Columbia’s President, Nemat Shafik, disclosed that Dr. Massad had since been removed from a leadership role at the university, where he headed an academic review panel.

Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia, was also mentioned in the hearing for her activist role and a comment that “all Israeli students who served in the I.D.F. are dangerous and shouldn’t be on campus,” referring to the Israel Defense Forces.

Ms. Franke recently wrote a piece in The Nation raising questions about academic freedom at Columbia, where she has taught since 1999.

Dr. Shafik, who goes by Minouche, said Professors Massad and Franke were “under investigation for discriminatory remarks.”

Mohamed Abdou was also named in the hearing. Dr. Abdou was hired as a visiting scholar for the Spring 2024 term, and was teaching a course called “Decolonial-Queerness and Abolition.

A biography on Columbia’s website describes Dr. Abdou as “a North African-Egyptian Muslim anarchist interdisciplinary activist-scholar of Indigenous, Black, critical race and Islamic studies, as well as gender, sexuality, abolition and decolonization.”

Representative Elise Stefanik asked why he was hired even after his social media post on Oct. 11 that read, “I’m with Hamas & Hezbollah & Islamic Jihad.” Dr. Shafik said, “He will never work at Columbia again.”