Biblical Archaeology Review 21:4, July/August 1995

Did a Letter to BAR End a Cornell Graduate Student’s Career?


A letter to the editor of BAR is now at the center of a controversy at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York. At issue is whether the letter led to the dismissal of a graduate student because it was considered inappropriate.

“I told him not to send it,” admits Professor David I. Owen, chairman of the Department of Near Eastern Studies and one of the world’s leading authorities on early Semitic languages.

But Greg Doudna didn’t listen. Instead he mailed the letter, which was printed in the March/April 1992 BAR (Queries & Comments, BAR 18:02). He urged more carbon-14 testing of Dead Sea Scrolls. Doudna even offered to pay for the testing of one or two fragments.

The editor responded, “Your offer is accepted. Please identify the texts you want tested and send us a check for the cost—and we’ll try to see that it’s done.”

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