Feud for thought over Israel chair

Geoffrey Alderman offers to supervise critic’s doctorate

November 21, 2013

If there is a world record for academic bitchiness, it has probably just been broken.

Geoffrey Alderman, professor of history and politics at the University of Buckingham, has taken the scholarly feud to new heights by offering to supervise the PhD of an academic adversary, free of charge, whom he accuses of being woefully underqualified.

Writing in The Jewish Chronicle, Professor Alderman takes aim at Tom Hickey, course leader for the MA in cultural and critical theory at the University of Brighton.

The open letter recounts that Mr Hickey, a leading advocate of an academic boycott of Israel, had attacked the Yossi Harel chair in modern Israel studies at the University of Sussex, a position created last year, because it could propagate “Israeli state propaganda”.

At Academic Integrity or Political Propaganda: The Chair of Modern Israeli Studies, an event held in Brighton on 14 October, Mr Hickey also questioned whether he would be barred from the chair because of his attitude towards Israel.

In his letter, published on 8 November, Professor Alderman accuses Mr Hickey of making a “fool” of himself in his arguments about the chair “by offering sweeping assertion and innuendo as a substitute for reasoned argument”.

The Buckingham scholar then turns his pen from politics to the matter of Mr Hickey’s curriculum vitae.

“Tom, as things stand at the moment you would never have a chance in hell of being appointed to the Harel chair, for reasons that have nothing to do with your private views but everything to do with your academic qualifications,” Professor Alderman writes.

“To be blunt, your published output seems a trifle thin…Scarcely less important…is the fact that you do not appear to be credentialled at doctoral level.”

He then “genuinely” offers to supervise Mr Hickey’s doctorate for free.

“I myself possess two doctorates,” he writes. “So when it comes to doctoral studies I know what I’m talking about. You’ll also be interested to learn that I currently hold five professorial titles. I know what makes a professor. You appear not to.”

In a final flourish, he adds: “Tom, for the sake of what remains of your academic reputation, I advise you to keep your bowels open and your mouth closed.”

In a response, Mr Hickey told Times Higher Education that he had “no desire to pour any more scorn on Professor Doctor Alderman than he has already heaped upon himself in the eyes of his colleagues by this ad hominem and ill-informed personal attack in defence of the indefensible”.

He said that he had read the letter, but had “put it aside with as much pity for its author as distaste for its content”.

“Geoffrey Alderman should now be left alone to attempt to recover his reputation. It would be gratuitous and cruel to pursue the matter,” he concluded.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest