Roger’s Rules

Another disgraceful episode in the groves of academe

Remember President Ahmadinejad’s preposterous visit to Columbia University last September? (I wrote about that little escapade here.) Well, it has just been reported by an Iranian news agency that–the headline says it all–“Columbia professors plan to visit Iran to apologize to Ahmadinejad.” Yes, that’s right folks, some of those tenured radicals we pay to educate the next generation of citizens at one of our premier universities will be embarking for Tehran to apologize “officially” to the beaming dictator (see “Ahmadinejad’s Grin.”)

An academic delegation of Columbia University professors and deans of faculties plans to visit Tehran to officially apologize to Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

The delegation plans to express regret for the insulting remarks Columbia University President Lee Bollinger directed at Ahmadinejad on September 24 in his introductory speech, the Mehr News Agency correspondent in New York reported.

Since the incident, the deans and professors from the faculties of history, anthropology, Middle Eastern studies, philosophy, and Islamic studies have criticized Bollinger’s behavior toward Ahmadinejad.

What can I say? Back in October, I wrote a piece for National Review on the subject of “How to Fix the Universities” (here’s the link, but I believe registration is required). I had this and that to say–the usual list of prescriptions about tenure and free speech and academic rigor–but I incline more and more to the solution offered me some while back when I wrote about a similar subject for The New Criterion: “I just can’t,” the sound fellow wrote, “see meaningful change of the academic monstrosity our universities have become issuing from faculties, parents, alumni, and trustees.” OK, but what was his alternative? In a word, tanks. He called his plan Operation Academic Freedom, and I think you will agree that it has that virtue of simplicity which William of Occam famously recommended. Here’s the plan:

We round up every tank we can find that isn’t actually being used in Iraq or Afghanistan. Next, we conduct a nationwide Internet poll to determine which institutions need to be retaken first . . .

The actual battle plan is pretty simple. We drive our tanks up to the front doors of the universities and start shooting. Timing is important. We’ll have to wait till 11 a.m. or so, or else there won’t be anyone in class. Ammunition is important. We’ll need lots and lots of it. The firing plan is to keep blasting until there’s nothing left but smoldering ruins. Then we go on to the next on the list. If the first target is Harvard, for example, we would move on from there to, say, Yale. So fuel will be important too. There’s going to be some long-distance driving involved between engagements.

In my piece for National Review, I called this Plan B, to be resorted to in the end when all the reformist measures had been exhausted. I think more and more it should be promoted to Plan A and should begin at Columbia before wending its weary way up Route 95 to Cambridge.