Donner said all of the Middle East centers "face political pressure of diverse kinds" but strive to provide balance, with "a rich mix of activities representing contentious issues from as many perspectives as possible."
"They try to welcome responsible scholarly participation by those on all sides of the many contentious issues that afflict the Middle East - whether it is Israel vs. Palestine, Turkey vs. Armenia, Sunnis vs. Shi'is, Muslims vs. Christians, Baha'is vs. the Iranian government, Islamists vs. moderates and secularists, Kurds and their struggles with the governments of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq."
Aghaie said the incident drives home an important lesson he hopes students imbibe: censorship is "self-defeating" and "nothing good can ever come" of it.
And, he said, academic discourse should be exempt from a political boycott and "whatever they believe about identity politics," there needs to be some "guiding academic principles."
"If people want to challenge views, they should do it by arguing, writing, not silencing the other side," he said. "As an academic you want to engage people who disagree with you" and prove that they are wrong, he said.
Interviewed in the Journal of Higher Education, Aghaie stressed that academics and authors should be "talking across borders" and they all should recognize that they don't necessarily represent their governments' views.
"When Iran executes a gay man, I'm not guilty of that," Aghaie said in that interview. "I didn't do that. I would never support that."
He said censorship in the free marketplace of ideas is like price-gouging in a free-market environment.
"If we can't abide by basic academic principles, we're not academics," he told CNN.
Other Middle East departments in the United States might skew toward certain ideologies. Aghaie said the University of Texas has been "very fortunate" to have a big, tolerant tent.
"We have this view we need to keep all views represented and there aren't any that are illegitimate. We try to keep the focus on that," he said. "We're not going to change how we're doing things."
Laura Ann Fernea, Elizabeth's daughter who lives in San Diego, said it was a "huge blow" to find out the book fell through.
"My mother would have been so disappointed. That's the opposite of what she wanted,"
She said her mother had friends and worked with women all over the Middle East.
"If my mother was alive, she would have thought there had to be a way to work this out."
Robert Fernea, Elizabeth's widower who also lives in San Diego, called the development "unseemly" and hopes the project can be salvaged. He's surprised that it fell through since so much work was put into it and the writers were involved in the project from the beginning.
Formerly a professor of anthropology and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Texas, Fernea said he agrees with the principles of academic freedom and the position espoused by the university. But he also understands the Israeli-Palestinian political landscape .
"There's antipathy between the two groups and they are not going to overcome that antipathy with one book," he said.
Aghaie told CNN in an interview that at present there are no ways to salvage the project and there are no ideas at present to honor Fernea. If Fernea - who was sympathetic to Palestinians and their situation - witnessed the censorship, she wouldn't have liked it, Aghaie said.
"This isn't the kind of thing she would have believed in," he said.