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Campus Capers at Columbia
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. 10/507

The choice of speakers at America’s colleges and universities has become a subject of intense controversy, thanks to the rapid spread throughout the campuses of that disease called political correctness. Student and faculty protests have led to the withdrawal of invitations to well qualified speakers because of their political views, their support of the war (any war) or their association with the hated Bush administration. When unsuccessful in forcing the university to withdraw an invitation, the protestors often resort to heckling and harassing tactics to the point that the speakers have been unable to be heard or to continue. So much for freedom of speech on our campuses.

Any organization that extends an invitation to a speaker has a responsibility to treat that speaker with civility and courtesy however odious his message might be. It follows, then, that caution should be exercised before the invitation is extended in the first place. In the recent debacle involving Iran’s lunatic president  Mamoud Ahmadinejad, Columbia University was deficient on both counts; in the first place for inviting him and in the second place for staging an introduction full of insults, however well-deserved.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

The greater error, of course, was inviting him. In defending that decision, Columbia’s acting dean of the School of International and Public Affairs stressed the importance of dialogue with world leaders, however controversial their views. “If Hitler were in the United States,” he said, “and…if he were willing to engage in a debate and discussion by Columbia students and faculty, we would certainly invite him.”

Oh, really? Aside from the fact that Hitler was also an enemy of the United States and most of the rest of the world, wasn’t he responsible for the Holocaust? Didn’t he attempt to exterminate an entire race? Wouldn’t it have been politically incorrect, to put it mildly, to insult the Jewish people by giving a racist like Hitler a forum in the United States? Ahmadinejad meanwhile has denied that the Holocaust even happened. He has stated repeatedly that Israel should be erased from the map and its inhabitants driven into the sea. Isn’t it an insult to all Jews and to decent people everywhere to give this racist a forum on an American campus? Isn’t that the very height of political incorrectness? And if extreme viewpoints deserve a campus forum, where does it all end? How about inviting a serial rapist or, say, a pedophile who has abused hundreds of children to debate his warped views with the eggheads at Columbia?

Ahmadinejad, while certainly a nut case, is the elected head of state of an important Middle East Muslim nation who will exploit this episode as an example of the disrespect Americans show toward a Muslim leader.  He should never have been accorded this propaganda opportunity. His racist message of hatred is already well known and does not need to be debated in any civilized venue, least of all by Ivy League liberals. There is nothing to debate because there is no merit in his twisted arguments. Did they actually expect to change his mind and win him over? When will liberals finally get it that debating those who sanction murder in the name of God is a fool’s errand?

It was fun, I must concede, watching Ahmedijad make a fool out himself, speaking nonsense like the clown he is. But we already knew he was a clown and a figurehead. You don’t dignify him by offering him a pulpit at what passes for one of America’s premier universities. The UN is the place for fools like him to rant. Columbia should be ashamed of itself for hosting this spectacle. But then Columbia already has plenty to be ashamed of.  Last year, it invited the founder of the Minuteman Project, Jim Gilchrist, to speak. He never got the chance because hecklers were allowed to storm the stage and silence him. Those fearless advocates of free speech at Columbia did nothing to stop them.

Then there is the matter of the R.O.T.C. being banished from the Columbia campus. Although the student body, to its credit, voted 2-to-1 to bring it back, President Bollinger steadfastly refused on the grounds that the military discriminates against gays. Aside from the fact that the military is complying with the law of the land in following the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, how is it that racists like Hitler and Ahmedinejad, who want to actually kill Jews, not just discriminate against them, are welcome on campus while the American military, the last, best defense against such evil, is not?

Meanwhile, at Stanford, Columbia’s sister institution on the left coast, the faculty mobilized against the appointment of two-time Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to a fellowship at its Hoover Institution to participate in a study group on terrorism and ideology. Mr. Rumsfeld, whose credentials are obvious, was deemed by the Stanford scholars as “fundamentally incompatible with the ethical values of truthfulness, tolerance (and) disinterested inquiry.” Talk about tolerance!

I have two simple questions in response to all this. First, how much federal funding and tax exemptions do Columbia and Stanford receive? My second question is why should they receive any? CRO

copyright 2007 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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