So began a recent confrontation at Manouba University on the outskirts of Tunis, Tunisia’s capital, where tensions have been running high for nearly a year. Here a handful of ultraconservative Salafist students and their busloads of supporters, many from the poor interior of the country, are pitted against an urban faculty with a strong sense that this bare-bones campus with its overgrown paths is no place for prayer rooms or women who veil their faces.

The turmoil at Manouba has kept Dean Kazdaghli, who is elected by faculty representatives, at the top of the news and editorial pages, sometimes admired for his embrace of a secular campus, sometimes derided for letting things get out of control or for failing to acknowledge the needs of the Salafist students.