Monday, September 24, 2007
At National Review Online is an article by a pair of Columbia University students who argue against Columbia President Lee Bollinger's invitation to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak at his university.
Columbia President Lee Bollinger[ described] the invitation as an affirmation of academic freedom. Granting that "many, most, or even all of us" find Ahmadinejad "offensive and even odious," Bollinger wrote this week that to "examine critically all ideas" is "our nation's most potent weapon against repressive regimes everywhere in the world." In Bollinger's view, "this is America at its best."This hits the nail on the head and the article gets even better from there.
But Bollinger is begging the question. Certainly the ideas of a powerful world leader should be studied on American campuses. The true question is whether the university should dignify the Iranian leader by making him an officially invited guest. [bold added]
Not to criticize their article for this, but amazingly, David Feith and Jordan Hirsch never get around to mentioning one fact that makes Bollinger's praise of academic freedom sound like so much lip service: Columbia's sorry track record of failing to respect the academic freedom of its own students!
While Columbia honors a foreign war criminal with an open forum, it imposes enough restrictions on the freedom of speech of its own students to have earned a "red light" speech code rating from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which is stepping up its public awareness efforts this year on matters of free speech at America's universities.
Rather than mouthing platitudes about academic freedom and grandstanding by asking "tough" questions of Ahmadinejad, Bollinger should instead do something substantive about fostering free intellectual inquiry (which requires freedom of speech). Two good places to start would be to work for the repeal of official school policies that trample freedom of speech and to attempt to change the repressive, multiculturalist atmosphere at Columbia, which such policies help bring about and reinforce.
Today: Craig Biddle of Principles in Practice discusses the moral relativism behind Ahmadinejad's speaking invitation here and here.
9-25-07: Corrected some typos.