Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Columbia Disgrace!

When we last discussed Columbia we were commenting on the disgraceful use of eminent domain to transfer Nick Sprayregen's property over to the ubber property owning university. Megan McCardle at the Atlantic captured the unfairness:

"In the case of Columbia, there's a tangible public loss--they're going to tear down one of the few gas stations in Manhattan in order to give Columbia's privileged students more space.  And what public benefit does the city get?  We're talking about taking taxpaying private properties and transferring them to a non-profit which will not pay taxes, and will turn a large swathe of Manhattan into a quasi-compound for some of the wealthiest and most privileged people in the city.
Which is, of course, the most sick-making aspect.  I am not against eminent domain for public uses like hospitals or railroads.  But by no stretch of the imagination could Columbia University be called a public accommodation.  One's gut and one's social conscience rebel at the seizure of private property which is taken precisely because it serves, or is owned by, poorer people.  One's gut and one's social conscience positively riot at the thought of taking this seized land and handing it over to wealthy private institution that almost exclusively serves the affluent class.

I don't understand why this is an issue that only fires up libertarians.  Can't we all agree that it would be better to live in a world where Columbia cannot do this sort of thing?  I guess not, though."
The case for Columbia was bolstered by its president who seemed to make the audacious claim that the university needed the Sprayregen property so that it could go ahead in its research to cure cancer, among other things: "Columbia plans to meet this challenge by assembling one of the greatest and most diverse concentrations of brain power anywhere in the world. A key part of the university's proposed expansion in the Manhattanville area of West Harlem will provide the opportunity to add approximately 500 new researchers, who will collaborate across traditional academic boundaries to address the signal challenges of our time."

Poor Sprayregen, thinking that his property rights are more important than curing heretofore incurable diseases. But now comes some even more disturbing news about the indispensable university and the homunculi it enrolls as its students. The NY Post reports the horrendous story: "Columbia University students heckled a war hero during a town-hall meeting on whether ROTC should be allowed back on campus. "Racist!" some students yelled at Anthony Maschek, a Columbia freshman and former Army staff sergeant awarded the Purple Heart after being shot 11 times in a firefight in northern Iraq in February 2008. Others hissed and booed the veteran."

This is all representative of the new civility, we guess-but to us, it raises once again the question of why anyone would consider this privileged bastion a receptor for the property of hard working New Yorkers? And let's not forget that this is the same university that invited the Holocaust denying Ahmadinenjad to speak-and the place where the Minutemen were shouted down and prevented from speaking by all of Columbia's civil libertarians.
But disrespecting a wounded war vet is probably the university's low point-and we have yet to see Dr. Cancer Cure say a word about the outrage. But then again, a university that will use the power of the state to throw people off of their land-and continue to gentrify the locals out of the West Harlem neighborhood where it resides-are not the kind of folks for which shame is a handy emotion.
But the real shame is Mike Bloomberg's-a leader for whom property rights applies only to a certain class of people-his own.