Juan Cole: About Yale ...Historians in the News
But I did want to clear up some misimpressions I've seen here and there.
First, it should be remembered that senior professors are sort of like baseball players, and other teams look at them from time to time, as recruitment prospects. It goes on constantly, formally or informally. Such looking is never taken very seriously by anyone unless it eventuates in an actual offer.
Second, it is important in interpreting these things to know who initiated the looking. I am not actively seeking other employment, and did not apply to Yale; they came to me and asked if they could look at me for an appointment. I am very happy at the University of Michigan, which has among the largest and oldest Middle East Studies programs in the United States. It is like Disney World for a Middle East specialist. To its credit, the University invested tens of millions of dollars in creating positions and building library and other resources in this field at at time when it was considered marginal by many other universities. Michigan also has a History Department that is among the very best and largest in the country, characterized by diversity of area specialization and innovative, interdisciplinary scholarship. It is a nurturing and congenial intellectual environment. Many fine departments in the US have a North Atlantic focus or bias, but Michigan for decades has had a global emphasis.
The press has some out of date impressions about our major research universities, imagining that the old hierarchy of Ivy League versus the rest is still meaningful. It is not. Research universities, whether state (Berkeley, the University of Michigan) or private, are much more similar than they are different. Were I ever to go to another place, it would likely be as a pioneer in a less well-developed Middle East Studies program, for the purpose of building up something that we already have at Michigan. That is, it would be a personal sacrifice for some purpose, and not a decision easily made.
I was extremely fortunate to have been hired at the University of Michigan right out of graduate school. I moved from UCLA to the pinnacle of my profession at a young age. I am doing what I enjoy doing, which is studying and teaching the Middle East and South Asia, and communicating about it to various publics. I have not, and short of foul play cannot be stopped from doing what I am doing, and what I enjoy. I welcome critiques of my work. There are obviously some critics, however, who go rather beyond simple critique to wishing to silence or smear me. In the former, at least, they cannot succeed by mere yellow journalism. So I have what I want, but they cannot have what they want. I win, every day.
Many thanks to all the kind messages and votes of confidence from readers. I've decided that this is a subject better closed, so am not taking comments.