September 28, 2007

JOHN LEO REGARDS LEE BOLLINGER’S RECENT TALK about free speech at Columbia as hypocritical:

Last October, Columbia radicals stormed a campus stage, knocking over furniture, creating pandemonium and preventing speeches by Minutemen leader Jim Gilchrist and a colleague. Nobody seemed very upset about this, least of all Lee Bollinger, who issued a tiny bleat about free speech before referring the issue to a committee where it languished for three months. Awakening briefly on Christmas weekend, the committee administered an undescribed slap on the wrist to an unknown number of unidentified members of the censoring rabble and there the matter ended.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), now the most powerful free-speech watchdog in the country, dismissed Bollinger’s “say-one-thing-do-another-act” and noted that Columbia “has a long and distinguished record of suppression of free speech.” Mayor Bloomberg echoed the thought, urging Bollinger to get his arms around the problem, because “There are too many incidents at the same school where people get censored.”

Several people, myself included, suggested that if Bollinger is as interested in free speech as he keeps saying he is, then he should reschedule the Minutemen and introduce them himself, with enough security around to discourage the reappearance of last year’s stormtroopers in training.

A few weeks ago, it looked as though Columbia was about to make a rare lurch in the direction of free speech. Students re-invited the two Minutemen, but after these proposed speakers bought plane tickets, Columbia’s pro-censorship DNA re-asserted itself and the two men were once again disinvited. Not a peep out of Bollinger.

Yes, and this hypocrisy is a problem with higher education more generally, alas. It’s why people don’t take claims that “we’re just opening up a debate” seriously — because, you know, they’re basically lies.

Related item here.