The Wall Street Journal noted yesterday a certain inconsistency in the way Columbia University enforces support for Gay Rights in its campus access policies.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has his doubts about whether the Holocaust happened. He thinks the Jewish state should be wiped off the map. His regime funnels sophisticated munitions to Shiite militias in Iraq, who use them to kill American soldiers.
Oh, and by the way, his regime also executes homosexuals for the crime of being themselves. Maybe if Columbia University President Lee Bollinger were aware of the latter fact he would reconsider his invitation to the Iranian president to speak on his campus next Monday.
Mr. Bollinger, notoriously, voted in 2005 not to readmit an ROTC program to Columbia (absent from the university since 1969), ostensibly on the grounds of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding gay service members. Never mind that other upper-tier schools, including Princeton, Dartmouth, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania all have ROTC programs. Never mind, too, that in 2003 the Columbia student body voted in favor of readmission by a 2-1 margin. In Mr. Bollinger’s view, “the university has an obligation, deeply rooted in the core values of an academic institution and in First Amendment principles, to protect its students from improper discrimination and humiliation.”
Mr. Bollinger’s position might at least be coherent were he not now invoking the same principles to justify his invitation to Mr. Ahmadinejad, whose offenses to gay rights and any other form of human dignity considerably exceed the Pentagon’s. After promising that he would introduce the president “with a series of sharp challenges” — including Iran’s “reported support” for international terrorism — he went on to say that “it is a critical premise of freedom of speech that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open the public forum to their expression.”
We’re all for free speech and the vigorous exchange of intellectual differences, though we don’t see how Mr. Bollinger can be, given his decision to discriminate against young men and women who seek to make careers in the military. We also don’t quite see how the right to free speech — a freedom Mr. Ahmadinejad conspicuously denies his own people — is tantamount to the right to an illustrious pedestal. Columbia is a selective institution in its choice of students as well as speakers; its choices confer distinction on those whom it selects. Were it otherwise, Mr. Ahmadinejad would surely have better uses for his time.
And the Journal’s comments must have stung, because Lee Bollinger promptly deleted the honorific portion of Columbia University’s invitation, removing Ahmadinejad’s from a “World Leader’s Forum” program. At this point, however, Ahmadinejad is still scheduled to deliver an address at Columbia.
The president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, yesterday withdrew an invitation to the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The dean of Columbia’s school of international and public affairs, Lisa Anderson, had independently invited Mr. Ahmadinejad to speak at the World Leader’s Forum, a year-long program that aims to unite “renowned intellectuals and cultural icons from many nations to examine global challenges and explore cultural perspectives.”
In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, Mr. Bollinger said he canceled Mr. Ahmadinejad’s invitation because he couldn’t be certain it would “reflect the academic values that are the hallmark of a University event such as our World Leaders Forum.” He told Ms. Anderson that Mr. Ahmadinejad could speak at the school of international and public affairs, just not as a part of the university-wide leader’s forum.
And Ahmadinejad is clearly doing a lot better than former Harvard President Larry Summers, who is regarded as such a villain in the groves of Academy for merely speculating upon the possibility of other explanations besides discrimination for the less frequent academic focus of women on science, mathematics, and engineering that faculty members at the University of California at Davis were able to pressure their regents into withdrawing an invitation to Summers.
And, at Stanford, 2500 students, faculty, and alumni are petitioning to prevent the Hoover Institution making former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a visiting fellow.