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Saturday, April 02, 2005

 

Columbia's Administrators, Then and Now

Compare excerpts from "The University Responds: 'On the Matter of Edward Said,'" which appeared in the Columbia Daily Spectator, October 20, 2000, to President Lee Bollinger's failure to protect his faculty from continual harassment. Then Provost Jonathan Cole wrote:

We do not believe in a speech code at Columbia, nor shall we act as a speech police.

If this current episode were in fact about throwing a stone across a border that apparently did not threaten anyone, we might leave it at that. But this discussion is really about something more basic to the University's fabric than the tossing of a stone since, it seems to me, if it were not for Professor Said's well-known political views this would not have become a matter of heated and on-going debate.

There is nothing more fundamental to a university than the protection of the free discourse of individuals who should feel free to express their views without fear of the chilling effect of a politically dominant ideology.

We at Columbia did not yield--as did other institutions--to the pressure and impulse to sanction or fire professors who held unpopular political views during the McCarthy period; we will not back down from our protection of the faculty's right to express itself now.

If we are to deny Professor Said the protection to write and speak freely, whose speech will next be suppressed and who will be the inquisitor who determines who should have a right to speak his or her mind without fear of retribution?

Unfortunately, the current administration at Columbia shows neither courage nor wisdom in wake of the onslaught from the likes of Martin Kramer, Daniel Pipes, The ADL, Natan Sharansky, meddling rabbis, The New York Sun, and craven local politicians. Joseph Massad details several instances of its failure to act on his behalf. He concludes in a March 14 (well worth reading the entire statement)statement:

That Columbia University administration acted as a collaborator with the witch-hunters instead of defending me and offering itself as a refuge from rightwing McCarthyism has been a cause of grave personal and professional disappointment to me. I am utterly disillusioned with a university administration that treats its
faculty with such contempt and am hoping against hope that the faculty will rise to the task before them and force President Bollinger to reverse this perilous course on which he has taken Columbia’s faculty and students. The major goal of the witch-hunters is to destroy the institution of the university in general. I am merely the entry point for their political project. As the university is the last bastion of free-thinking that has not yet fallen under the authority of extreme rightwing forces, it has become their main target. The challenge before us is therefore to be steadfast in fighting for academic freedom."

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