Monday, February 26, 2007

Columbia Posted and Toasted

In today's NY Post the paper editorializes against Columbia's failure to discipline the protesters who forcefully disrupt a speech last year by the Minutemen. Whatever one feels about the group's philosophy, it is without doubt that it is the duty of a major university to enforce the constitutionally protected free speech rights of all Americans, not just those we happen to agree with.

This is something that the university chose not to do. As the Post observes that the university also has failed to inform the citizens of the city about this latent fascist disruption of the free speech rights of an unpopular group. Yet the university believes that its great mission should prompt the city and state to condemn the property of its neighbors and evict longstanding low income tenants.

As the Post says; "And this same university-which clearly is unwilling to police its own grounds-seeks to extend its reach into surrounding neighborhoods by using the government's power to condemn and seize private homes and businesses. City Hall needs to consider this proposition very closely." Indeed. In the neighborhood I grew up in, not too far from the Columbia that my father graduated from, we use to characterize this attitude as, "They think that their s**t don't stink."

Rights and obligations seem to flow in only one direction when it comes to Columbia; and this haughty attitude is enshrined in its Columbiacentric development plan that shuts the local neighborhood out from any meaningful partnership. The rallying cry here should be that no development application should be certified until the university sits down to negotiate an inclusive plan that adheres closely to the community board's 197-A plan.