Friday, September 21, 2007

Wither Columbia?

Yesterday we posted an item on what we termed the "shame" of Columbia University in its provision of an honored platform for the Iranian nutcase. Today, all three tabloids in the city follow suit with their condemnation of the university-here, here and here. The favorite editorial take? That the Columbia forum is a disgrace. As the NY Daily News says: "Columbia University will play host on Monday to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, leader of the foremost sponsor of global terrorism, would-be eradicator of Israel and manufacturer of roadside bombs that are killing American troops in Iraq, in a shameful abuse of academic freedom."

All of which should begin to generate some second thoughts about the lionizing of this ivy league institution, and the eagerness that many in the city are displaying in the support of Columbia's expansion. We don't say this lightly. If Bollinger and the university are so tone deaf on this issue, what does it say about the character and direction of Columbia? Is the university becoming something that most New Yorkers would rather not have in their midst (kind of like the UN itself)?

The NY Sun captures this when it writes: "Our phone has been ringing with calls from New Yorkers appalled, most of them, that President Bollinger is going to permit Columbia University to host President Ahmadinejad — and sick that Mr. Bollinger is personally going to honor the Iranian anti-Semite, an enemy of our country in a time of war, by personally meeting with him and conducting a dialogue that, no matter how sincere Mr. Bollinger is, will be phony."

Up until this point most of us have take for granted that, no matter what are particular objections may be, the university's expansion into West Harlem is-as Martha Stewart would say- "A good thing." Can we be so certain today? That the Bollinger gang would so blithely affront the sensibilities of most New Yorkers-and we are delighted that Speaker Quinn so forcefully gets it-should sound the alarm bells for all of us. Quinn's words need repeating: "The idea of Ahmadinejad as an honored guest anywhere in our city is offensive to all New Yorkers," Ms. Quinn said in a statement. "He can say whatever he wants on any street corner, but should not be given center stage at one of New York's most prestigious centers of higher education."

Bollinger better be careful. He has already, in his non-actions against the Minutemen disrupters, shown that he is no true champion of basic free speech values-more concerned apparently with not affronting the left wing faculty. Does it really make sense to give this university carte blance to expand-and take people's property in the process? This serious question needs to be debated as the ULURP process continues.