Repeated requests from alumni, students, parents, and faculty for comment from the college about the allegations against Bassam Frangieh have been consistently ignored. Worse, the college trots Frangieh out for fundraising; CMC Magazine Winter 2011 listed him as reason No. 33 to donate to Claremont McKenna. This was months after his views on Hamas and Hezbollah were established. The college’s PR chief, Richard Rodner, scrubbed all mention of Frangieh’s views from Wikipedia. Dean of Faculty Greg Hess e-mailed the faculty saying that it was only “a student writer’s opinion” that Hezbollah and Hamas are terrorist organizations — ignoring the fact that it was the State Department, where many of Frangieh’s students hope to work, that designated them as such.
In March 2010, Claremont McKenna President Pamela Gann traveled with Frangieh and Wenger to the Middle East, where she compared Frangieh’s advocacy for Hezbollah and Hamas to another professor’s testimony in the Proposition 8 case last year. Gann hopes to get funding for Frangieh’s Arabic program from the Kuwaiti royal family, several members of which attended Claremont McKenna College.
According to one member of the board of trustees, President Gann recently sent out a memo that essentially copied Dean Hess’s. The trustee noted that this was the first time Gann had sent all the trustees a memo since the famous Kerri Dunn incident in 2004, in which a professor of psychology faked a hate crime against herself.
The circumstances of Frangieh’s tenure hearing three years ago were rife with procedural misconduct. No one reviewing Frangieh’s work spoke Arabic or, according to one faculty source, even Googled his name. Nevertheless, President Gann moved to grant Frangieh automatic tenure — the first time ever that this was done at Claremont McKenna. By way of comparison, Dean Hess took an opposite tenure decision a year later and denied Professor Christopher Lynch a tenure-track position for “lacking substantive publications” — despite the enthusiastic support for him from the Government Department and a significant publication record. Hess refused to comment on this manifest double standard.
At Yale, Frangieh, as a language instructor, was denied consideration for tenure because, in the words of the provost, he lacked “substantive original research.” At Claremont, despite his lack of credentials, he has free range to create classes that teach his interpretation of the Middle East. He has a Ph.D. in Arabic literature — not history — and yet he teaches the required course for Middle East Studies majors, “Trends and Movements in the Middle East,” which promises to expose students to the “major themes in Arab society, culture, and tradition.” Islamist-motivated terrorism, anti-Semitism, and suicide-bombing are indeed major themes in modern Arab society — and Frangieh supports all of them.
Hezbollah has killed more Americans than any other terrorist organization except al-Qaeda. We wouldn’t tolerate a professor who supported al-Qaeda, so why do we tolerate one who supports Hezbollah?
— Charles C. Johnsonis a senior at ClaremontMcKennaCollege. He can be reached at email@example.com.