Lee Bollinger Is Having the Best Week Ever
Only just yesterday morning, Columbia University president Lee Bollinger was about as popular as Alger Hiss during the Red Scare. His decision to invite Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak during the annual World Leaders Forum was criticized everywhere: In newspaper editorials, by presidential hopefuls, not to mention all the students and protesters who hung around Morningside Heights, handing out flyers saying things like, “Bollinger, too bad bin Laden is not available.”
But since he laid his verbal smackdown on Ahmadinejad, boy has he bounced back! Immediately after the debate ended yesterday afternoon, Columbia’s student newspaper, the Spectator reported the university was being “flooded with calls to congratulate Columbia on the Ahmadinejad invitation talk about a change of heart.” Seriously! It continued this morning.
Columbia President Steals NYU President’s Logic
Was Columbia president Lee Bollinger actually taking his cues from NYU president John Sexton when he decided how and why to host Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a speaker? It seems like that might have been the case and that Bollinger’s much-abused decision to host the Iranian leader would have been the same had it been made by Sexton. Ooh, geek synergy! In a November 2004 speech, Sexton outlined the exact protocol that should be addressed when inviting a controversial guest. “It is hard to make a case that the university’s sacred space should be available to the likes of a bin Laden or a Hitler,” Sexton said then, arguing that bin Laden and Hitler’s disrespect for freedom, safety, and open dialogue should prevent them from taking advantage of a university’s adherence to those exact values. But Sexton, who has been accused of censorship himself, outlines how and why an exception should be made to that rule.