DISSENTING OPINION: Parodying Academic Freedom

Ahmadinejad’s appearance at Columbia made a mockery of free speech

At Columbia University, the nation’s sixth-oldest institution of higher learning, academic freedom allegedly reigns supreme. The administration there welcomed, to their ivied quads, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a virulent international opponent of the United States who in his country has presided over the dissolution of civil rights, an escalating assault on religious minorities, and the continued encroachment on free speech—everything anathema to a university proud of diversity and openness. And, moreover, they gave him a forum from which he might ridicule everything for which the university—and our country—should stand.

Some praise Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger for his courage and daring, inviting a stern ideological opponent for an exchange of discourse. But only those who have an underdeveloped sense of irony can truly believe this a cause to celebrate. “Academic freedom” may claim agnosticism as to the value of differing opinions, insisting only that each should be heard and considered. Academic freedom, however, itself implies a value: that inquiry should be free and opposing views respected. What a farce to invite a speaker, under the auspices of “academic freedom,” who not only opposes that premise, but has dedicated his public career to undermining it.

Only those who mouth platitudes without considering the situation at hand cannot see this silliness for what it is: academic freedom ironically parodying itself.

Christopher B. Lacaria ’09 is history concentrator in Kirkland House.

DISSENTING OPINIONS: Occasionally, The Crimson Staff is divided about the opinion we express in a staff editorial. In these cases, dissenting staff members have the opportunity to express their opposition to staff opinion.