academic freedom and its discontents

By Diogenes (articles ) | Sep 24, 2007

Should Columbia University provide a platform for Ahmadinejad? Should a university, in the interest of academic freedom and open debate, be ready to host Hitler?

Most reasonable people would draw the line somewhere. Open debate is a very valuable thing, but if a university doesn't stand for something-- if professors don't know what they profess-- then students are being asked to pay $40- 50,000 a year for a product that the purveyors cannot even describe, let alone deliver.

Administrators at Columbia can't discover a principle that would lead them to exclude Ahmadinejad from a civilized debate. That's Columbia's problem. But a Catholic university should have a grasp on certain principles: the foundational truths of the faith. Someone who contradicts those truths still has the right to free speech, but the university has no obligation to provide him with a forum.

Ideally, a Catholic university should be bold enough to make this sort of statement openly. But if it takes a manufactured "scheduling conflict" to protect a principle, that's not the worst thing in the world.

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  • Posted by: - Sep. 25, 2007 11:11 PM ET USA

    The president of Columbia U rebuked Ahmadinejad, did he? Well I for one salute him. As far as Ahmadinejad being insulted, he deserves much worse. It must be a new experience for him, though, to be rebuked without being able to torture or execute the one(s) who spoke truth - the poor widdle baby!!!

  • Posted by: - Sep. 25, 2007 8:47 PM ET USA

    Every reasonable exorcist knows that when delivering someone from the power of the Devil YOU DO NOT get in a casual conversation with the demon... In the same way YOU DO NOT empower one of his followers. Muslim or not the man is a liar and to contend with one such as him, one who clearly uses darkness as a weapon is an act of arrogance on the part of the hosts.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 25, 2007 6:27 PM ET USA

    I agree wiht Fiducia. I don't think Columbia should have given Ahmadinejad a platform, but I also think it was very wrong (and not a little arrogant) on the part of its president to excoriate him to his face. However, can you imagine the president of a "Catholic" university blasting a "Catholic" in the Kennedy-Kerry-Pelosi tradition?

  • Posted by: - Sep. 25, 2007 12:09 PM ET USA

    I support universities hosting controversial speakers, but object to anything that appears to honor them. If Kerry tries to present himself as a faithful Catholic, Catholic school authorities must present an immediate and forceful contradiction. Columbia U's president acted disgracefully yesterday. He invited a head of state to speak, repeatedly defended his right to speak, then insulted Ahmadinejad as part of his introduction. He should have let A. hang himself with his own words.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 25, 2007 10:38 AM ET USA

    I note that the President of Columbia and the students took this evil little man on in a debate and whaloped him. Three Cheers for Columbia and Free Speech.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 24, 2007 7:52 PM ET USA

    Ah, but the president's comments to this bigot make this the finest academic ambush of the millennium, already!

  • Posted by: - Sep. 24, 2007 10:30 AM ET USA

    Scheduling conflicts abount in this day of USCCB-ism. They are more nuanced than a plain "no."