Columbia University

Location: New York, New York
Website: http://www.columbia.edu
Type: Private
Federal Circuit: 2nd Circuit

Speech Code Rating

Columbia University has been given the speech code rating Red. A red light university has at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech. Read more here.

  • Columbia Law School: Threat to Punish Professor for ‘Hostile Environment’ Due to Exam Question

    September 6, 2011

    Professor George Fletcher, a renowned and respected legal scholar, taught an introductory criminal law class. In one exam, he presented his students with a hypothetical case-based in part on several real cases-that involved a woman who was grateful for a criminal assault that resulted in a miscarriage. Several faculty members and students objected to various aspects of the examination, finding it demeaning to women. The dean of the Law School, David Leebron, informed Professor Fletcher that the complaints he received constituted “a plausible contention of liability an[d] unlawfulness.” FIRE contacted Dean Leebron and sought a retraction of his troubling statements […]

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  • Columbia University: Hockey Club Punished for ‘Offensive’ Flyer

    December 27, 2006

    After intense public criticism, Columbia University revoked its semester-long suspension of the Men’s Ice Hockey Club. Columbia suspended the club for the semester—effectively canceling the club’s entire season—for posting recruiting flyers containing language that some found offensive. FIRE, along with other groups and individuals both within and outside the university, vociferously opposed Columbia’s attack on free expression. Columbia’s Office of Athletics Communications issued a statement announcing a reduction in the club’s punishment. The club was allowed to engage in league play, but it remained suspended from its preseason and nonleague games. The club was also required to apologize for the […]

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  • Columbia University: Ideological Litmus Tests at Teachers College

    September 15, 2006

    Columbia University’s Teachers College requires students to demonstrate a “commitment to social justice” and  employs “dispositions,” which it defines as “observable behaviors that fall within the law and involve the use of certain skills,” to evaluate students. These dispositions, “expected of Teachers College candidates and graduates” and “assessed at each transition point,” include “Respect for Diversity and Commitment to Social Justice.” FIRE criticized these and other requirements in several letters to Columbia University and Teachers College, arguing that evaluating students according to their commitment to an officially defined ideal is a violation of a student’s right to decide for himself […]

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  • Columbia University: Faculty Academic Freedom Debate

    January 10, 2005

    Allegations of anti-Semitism in Columbia’s Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures Department prompted a letter from the NYCLU addressing faculty academic freedom rights. However, this letter neglected the rights of students and others within the university to, for example, protest dissent from even that which remains protected under notions of academic freedom. In response, FIRE sent a letter to the president of Columbia fully addressing the rights of all interested parties. FIRE received a reply affirming the rights of all parties.

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  • Columbia University: Violation of Due Process Rights in Sexual Misconduct Policy

    May 16, 2001

    Despite all of the fanfare surrounding Columbia University’s promulgation of a so-called "Sexual Misconduct Policy"-a policy touted as a "national model"-Columbia, under intense and broad public criticism, has silently altered the text of its scandalous assault on student rights and decencies. For instance, in the original policy, there was no recording or transcript made of the proceedings, preventing any serious internal appeal or recourse to the real legal system. Instead, the very authors of a judicial decision would "summarize" the case for the official charged with hearing appeals. Now, Columbia University will keep a recording or full transcript of the […]

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Red Light Policies

Yellow Light Policies
  • Essential Policies for the Columbia Community: Student Policies and Procedures on Discrimination and Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Discriminatory harassment is defined as subjecting an individual on the basis of her or his membership in a Protected Class to humiliating, abusive, or threatening conduct or behavior that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group; that creates an intimidating, hostile, or abusive learning, living, or working environment; that alters the conditions of the learning, living, or working environment; or that unreasonably interferes with an individual’s academic performance.

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  • Essential Policies for the Columbia Community: Student Policies and Procedures on Discrimination and Harassment 13-14

    Speech Code Category: Harassment Policies

    Gender-based harassment is defined as acts of verbal, nonverbal, or physical aggression, intimidation, stalking, or hostility based on gender or gender-stereotyping. The conduct must be such that it has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, demeaning, or offensive learning, living, or working environment.

    Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when: … such conduct or behavior has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, demeaning, or offensive academic or living environment.

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Green Light Policies
  • Is Columbia Failing Campus Rape Victims?

    November 6, 2014

    By Lizzie Crocker at The Daily Beast Last Wednesday, hundreds of Columbia University students gathered on the steps of the Low Library hoisting hand-made signs and shouting into bullhorns, to protest what they say is the administration’s shoddy handling of the very serious issue of campus sexual assault. They carried mattresses in solidarity with Columbia senior Emma Sulkowicz, who has been lugging one around campus since the beginning of the semester. It’s a symbol, she says, of the dorm mattress she was raped in as a sophomore. “I’m no less afraid [now] of seeing my rapist every time I leave […]

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  • Yes Means Yes, Says Mr Brown

    October 3, 2014

    At The Economist ROUGHLY two decades ago, Antioch College in Ohio became the first in America to require students to give step-by-step consent during sexual encounters. The policy was widely mocked. “Saturday Night Live” invented an imaginary game show called “Is It Date Rape?” with a script that quoted almost verbatim from Antioch’s code. Now that code is becoming the norm at American colleges, and few people are laughing. On September 28th Jerry Brown, California’s governor, signed a bill requiring all colleges that receive state money for student financial aid to enforce a standard of “affirmative consent”, or “yes means […]

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  • New Columbia Sex ‘Misconduct’ Policy Allows Lawyers, Seeks Judges for Hearings

    August 29, 2014

    By Julianne Stanford at The College Fix Columbia University’s new “gender-based misconduct policy” and associated procedures for responding to campus sexual-assault allegations have garnered criticism from a coalition of victim advocacy groups. The groups claim they were not consulted during the revision process despite their efforts for at least a year pushing the university to alter how it responds to sexual assault. The revised policy stands out for allowing both accuser and accused to retain advisers such as lawyers, and for seeking to get people with “relevant legal training” – such as judges – to serve on hearing panels. The Huffington […]

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  • Young: Can scholarship and politics be untangled?

    March 11, 2013

    A quarter-century ago, the groves of academe became a battlefield.Several books, notably Allan Bloom‘s 1987 best-seller, “The Closing of the American Mind,” charged that the American university had been hijacked by left-wing radicals who had jettisoned the pursuit of knowledge for social causes. Student activists rebelled against a curriculum filled with works by “dead white males.” Stories circulated of professors and students penalized for dissenting from politically correct dogma on race, ethnicity and gender. Amid these battles, a group called the National Association of Scholars was formed as a bastion of traditional scholarship. Earlier this month, the group marked its 25th anniversary […]

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  • College: Where Free Speech Goes to Die

    March 4, 2013

    The value of the university once lay in its providing a nurturing space for what English poet and essayist Matthew Arnold called “the free play of the mind upon all subjects,” which would foster the “instinct prompting [the mind] to try to know the best that is known and thought in the world, irrespective of practice, politics, and everything of the kind.” Critical to these enterprises is the notion of academic freedom––the ability to study, teach, and talk about subjects, no matter how controversial, without fear of retribution or censorship. For only by discussing openly a wide range of subjects […]

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  • 6 of 10 universities can’t figure out 1st Amendment

    December 20, 2012

    by Bob Unruh at WND More than six of 10 colleges and universities across the United States have yet to figure out the First Amendment, because their “speech codes” conflict with the Constitution, according to a new report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. “FIRE surveyed 409 schools for this report and found that over 62 percent maintain severely restrictive, ‘red-light’ speech codes – policies that clearly and substantially prohibit protected speech,” said the executive summary. “That this figure is so large is deeply troubling, but there is good news: for the fifth year in a row, the percentage of schools maintaining […]

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  • Most campuses restrict free speech, report finds

    December 7, 2007

    Columbia and New York University, as well as Barnard College and the State University of New York, are schools on high alert for restricting free speech on campus, according to a new report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. In a review of 345 American colleges and universities, FIRE found that 75% of campuses instituted public policies that restricted speech protected by the First Amendment, according to the report, “Spotlight on Speech Codes.” At NYU, “teasing, mocking, degrading, or ridiculing” another person or group is prohibited on campus. At Columbia University, sexual harassment is defined as “any unwanted […]

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  • And the award goes to…

    June 25, 2007

    As the founder and sole member of the Sheldon Award Society, I am dedicated to identifying the worst college president of each academic year. So far the presidents or chancellors of Berkeley, Georgetown, DePaul, and countless other universities have copped the Sheldon. Somewhat mysteriously, none offered to resign. The award is a statuette that looks something like the Oscar, except the Oscar features a man with no face looking straight ahead, whereas the Sheldon shows a man with no spine looking the other way. The award is named for Sheldon “Water Buffalo” Hackney, the former president of the University of […]

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  • Campus Alert: Think like us–or else

    June 4, 2007

    Columbia University’s Teachers College is one of America’s most prestigious education schools. For many students, it’s probably the best—but not if you don’t buy the school’s definition of “social justice.” Teachers College evaluates students in part on the basis of so-called “dispositions,” defined as “observable behaviors” that “involve the use of certain skills.” One “disposition” is the student’s “Respect for Diversity and Commitment to Social Justice.” This warps the discussion of whether a student might make a good teacher into whether that student has the “correct” personal, religious or political beliefs. Evaluating students’ aptitude for teaching based on their commitment […]

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  • Students censured for Minuteman protest

    March 30, 2007

    The New York Times reported that eight Columbia University students who rushed a stage during a presentation done by the Minuteman Project were warned or censured by university officials. The warnings and censures will not be noted on students’ transcripts after graduation, but if they are charged with other disciplinary action they will face harsher punishments. The Minuteman Project is a group of individuals who support stronger laws against illegal immigration and have started a civilian border patrol along the U.S. border with Mexico. Inside Higher Education reported that students who received “disciplinary warnings” will receive no other punishment and […]

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  • Social justice and political orthodoxy

    March 30, 2007

    Columbia University has had more than its share of free-speech controversies over the last academic year, including a student melee that ended a speech by the founder of the Minuteman Project and a short-lived attempt to punish a sports club for using a rude word. One controversy, however, seems to have left the administration particularly puzzled: Why, they seem to be asking, would anyone object to Columbia Teachers  College’s requirement that students demonstrate their “commitment to social justice?” After all, doesn’t everyone agree that social justice is a good thing? Since at least 2003, Teachers College has maintained a policy […]

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  • Shut up, Fascist pig

    November 13, 2006

    It’s a common sight at the modern university. A group of leftist students storms the stage, shutting down a speaker about to depart from campus orthodoxy. Or perhaps a sound system gets unplugged, or pies fly. Instead of restoring order, campus security officers shrug and give up. The amateur censors then leap about jubilantly, feeling empowered. The university administration issues a few tut-tuts, underlines its safely abstract commitment to free speech, and then does nothing. This familiar scenario unfolded at Columbia University on October 4. Students, many from the Chicano Caucus and the International Socialist Organization, stormed the stage during […]

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  • Quick Hits: Columbia University ignores objections to thought reform amid free speech controversy

    November 7, 2006

    The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is calling on Teachers College—Columbia University’s graduate school of education—to abandon its ideological litmus tests for students. These policies are manifestly inconsistent with Teachers College’s written promises of free speech and academic freedom as well as with Columbia President Lee Bollinger’s recent statements on the importance of free expression at Columbia University. Teachers College’s Conceptual Framework, which represents the “philosophy for teacher education at Teachers College,” requires students to possess a “commitment to social justice.” Moreover, students are expected to recognize that “social inequalities are often produced and perpetuated through systematic discrimination […]

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  • Mugging the Minutemen

    November 3, 2006

    If large numbers of people believe in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if law forbids it. But if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them. —First Freedoms: A Documentary History of First Amendment Rights in America (Oxford University Press, 2006), from the introduction by this Voice columnist. On October 4, at a Columbia University event sponsored by the College Republicans, Jim Gilchrist, leader of the anti-immigration Minutemen—as has been reported far and wide—was physically and furiously prevented from speaking by a mob of righteous gauleiters, some […]

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  • A Columbia expert on free speech is accused of speaking too softly

    October 22, 2006

    Lee C. Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, is a natural in the classroom, guiding undergraduates through the intricacies of the First Amendment. Here he is, pacing, jacketless, playing the role of a politician who wants to ban pornography: Would it be constitutional, he asks his students? How would he justify the limits on free speech? He presses on, as a politician might, proclaiming, “I really think we should eliminate certain viewpoints from society.” Some students start to laugh. “Why don’t we do that?” he asks. There is probably no university chief in America more steeped in issues of free […]

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  • The complications of free speech

    October 18, 2006

    After students stormed the stage and blocked a talk by an anti-illegal immigration activist, Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, a First Amendment scholar, quickly criticized the protestors’ actions. “This is not complicated,” Bollinger said in an October 6 statement, released two days after student protestors disrupted a talk by the founder of the Minuteman Project, Jim Gilchrist. “Students and faculty have rights to invite speakers to the campus. Others have rights to hear them. Those who wish to protest have rights to do so. No one, however, shall have the right or the power to use the cover of […]

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  • Letting the PC slip show

    October 13, 2006

    You’ve probably never heard of Teachers College, but it has profoundly affected your life and is now affecting your children’s lives. TC is the graduate school of education at Columbia University and laboratory of most of the “reforms” that have corroded K-12 education over the past 50 years. New math, whole language, open classrooms, outcome-based education — you name the fad and it probably originated in Morningside Heights in New York. Teachers College is the most influential graduate education program in the country, and like so many leading schools, it is probably irredeemably PC. Still, Columbia University professes to uphold […]

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  • Litmus lesson: Teachers College’s political tests

    October 12, 2006

    by Greg Lukianoff and Robert Shibley New York Post   Columbia President Lee Bollinger has been publicly praising the sacredness of free speech in the wake of the violent melee that last week forced the university to shut down a speech by Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist. Yet while Bollinger talks a good game, it doesn’t appear that his own university is listening to him. Columbia’s Teachers College – one of our nation’s most prestigious education schools – has policies that go beyond telling students what they can or can’t say; it tells them even what they are required to […]

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  • Merit at Columbia

    October 12, 2006

    Staff Editorial What a juxtaposition — the same week that Columbia University is celebrating merit in the form of the Nobel prize in economics awarded to Professor Edmund “Ned” Phelps, Columbia’s Teachers College is coming under justified criticism for deriding merit, favoring instead a kind of left-wing indoctrination. If that sounds like an overstatement, we invite you to check out the “conceptual framework” for Teachers College that is available for download at the Teachers College Web site. It states, “Social inequalities are often produced and perpetuated through systematic discrimination and justified by societal ideology of merit, social mobility, and individual […]

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  • University policy draws fire from free-speech advocates

    October 12, 2006

    Columbia University’s Teachers College is being criticized by free-speech advocates, who are charging that the school’s “Conceptual Framework,” the document that shapes curricula and guides instruction and student assessment, amounts to an ideological litmus test. The Conceptual Framework lists a number of “dispositions” essential for future teachers such as a “respect for diversity and commitment to social justice,” according to the school’s Web site. Students’ dispositions are evaluated by faculty members “at multiple decision points.” A spokesman for Teachers College, Joseph Levine, denied that students are graded on their beliefs. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, an educational free […]

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  • Columbia University and the liberal prude police

    October 10, 2006

    There is a movement on college campuses to create a new right–one so powerful that it even trumps our right to free speech. Born out of college mission statements that wish to promote “understanding” and “tolerance” and “acceptance,” it is the right of every student and administrator to feel perpetually comfortable and never be offended. The latest bastion of sensitivity to uphold this entitlement was Columbia University. According to the Columbia Spectator, the University initially suspended its club ice hockey team for offending the campus community by posting bawdy recruitment flyers. In addition to their suspension, not only was the […]

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  • ‘Pussycat’ spat roars at Columbia

    October 8, 2006

    by Michael O’Keeffe New York Daily News Aren’t people at Ivy League schools supposed to be smart? Columbia University’s administration still doesn’t get it when it comes to the First Amendment. After weeks of criticism, the university lifted the semester-long suspension it imposed on the men’s hockey club over a sophomoric flyer. But the club still will be suspended for two preseason, non-league exhibition games. “Unfortunately, Columbia continues to avoid addressing the underlying free speech concerns about its action,” says Samantha Harris of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a nonpartisan free speech watchdog. “Columbia’s president strongly endorses freedom […]

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  • Stop squelching speech

    October 6, 2006

    A free speech controversy has hit Columbia’s campus-even if some refuse to admit it. On Wednesday, the Office of Athletic Communications released a statement announcing a reduced punishment for the men’s ice hockey club. While we are pleased the club has regained its season, even the remaining punishment is disconcerting. Administrators and student government representatives have eschewed the free speech issue at the heart of the controversy, instead clinging to the club’s procedural errors and disciplinary history as being the reasons behind the punishment. But would the club be facing any punishment if its flyers did not contain the phrase […]

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  • Columbia hockey club to leave penalty box early

    October 5, 2006

    NEW YORK — The men’s hockey club at Columbia University, suspended for a semester over a flyer featuring a double-entendre, received a reduced penalty Thursday of just two games after a meeting with school officials. Under an agreement between the club and the university, the hockey team will make a written apology to the Columbia community, the school said. In return, the club will be suspended for two preseason, non-league exhibition games; initially, the team was suspended through January 2007. The decision to reduce the disciplinary action followed a meeting Monday between university officials and the school’s director of club […]

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  • Columbia U. in catfight over word of many meanings

    October 4, 2006

    Civil-rights and free-speech groups are assailing Columbia University’s decision to suspend its men’s ice-hockey team, a club sport, because its members used what the Columbia Spectator decorously called “off-color recruitment fliers” in order to attract attention this fall. The fliers, which goaded students to join the team with the words “Don’t be a pussy,” were apparently the latest in a series of violations of athletics-department rules, the newspaper reported. But to the New York Civil Rights Coalition and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the episode was not a case of sophomoric crudity but of stifled speech. In letters […]

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  • Whassup, pussycat? Columbia U. said to back down in dispute with hockey team

    October 4, 2006

    Columbia University has reinstated its men’s hockey team, reversing an earlier decision to suspend the club sport in response to its members’ use of a vulgar word in recruitment fliers, the Columbia Spectator reported today. Citing an anonymous source, the newspaper said the university would punish the team in some other way for using the expression “Don’t be a pussy” as a come-on to Columbia Lions whom the team sought to entice. As a result, the reversal of the decision to suspend, if true, is not quite the unconditional surrender demanded of Columbia by such paladins of free speech as […]

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  • Columbia hockey club suspended over recruitment fliers

    September 29, 2006

    Columbia University has suspended its men’s ice hockey club because of recruiting fliers the team distributed earlier this month that included an off-color expression, students said Friday. The club was informed earlier this week that it had been suspended until January 2007, team president Matthew Glynn said. The club was also put on probation for two years, he said. Glynn confirmed that the team had distributed the fliers with the message: “Don’t be a pussy, play Columbia hockey.” He said he and other team members would meet with athletic directors Monday and would not comment further ahead of the meeting. […]

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  • Senate to Vote Friday on Sexual Misconduct Policy

    February 23, 2006

    The rallies and petitions from six years ago have long been forgotten. The widespread anger seems to be gone. The University-wide sexual misconduct policy was due for review in the spring of 2002—a semester before current Columbia seniors set foot on campus. Tomorrow, after four years of delays, postponements, and extensive debate by a task force, it is scheduled to come to a vote by the University Senate. But on the eve of what could be the most significant senate meeting in recent memory, the tone of the discussion surrounding one of Columbia’s most controversial policies is notably more subdued […]

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  • Pariahs, Martyrs — and Fighters Back

    October 24, 2005

    At the start of the last school year, activists at DePaul University set up a pair of tables along a student thoroughfare and distributed literature to passers-by. They caught the eye of faculty member Thomas Klocek, who took one of their handouts and read about Israel’s “brutal and murderous occupation” of “Palestine” as well as its “apartheid violence” in the West Bank and Gaza. This was provocative stuff — but nothing out of the ordinary for the two groups behind it all, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and United Muslims Moving Ahead (UMMA). Engaging the students in a discussion […]

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  • Educating the University

    June 1, 2005

    By Peter Berkowitz at Policy Review (Hoover Institution) Donald Alexander Downs. Restoring Free Speech and Liberty on Campus. Cambridge University Press. 318 pages. $28.99 Our universities are ailing. Many, including most of our elite universities, have abandoned the notion that a liberal arts education is constituted by a solid core, that is, a basic knowledge of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences that all educated people should possess. Furthermore, for all their earnest words about the beauty and necessity of multicultural education, university administrators and faculty preside over a curriculum that routinely permits students to graduate without acquiring reading, […]

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  • Inquiring Minds

    April 15, 2005

    By John Gravois at The Chronicle of Higher Education One morning a few weeks back, David A. Sandoval was sitting in his office at Colorado State University at Pueblo and speaking to a local reporter on the telephone. The reporter had called to get the Chicano-studies professor’s opinion on Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado at Boulder professor who had recently tripped the switch of national outrage by calling the victims of the World Trade Center bombings “little Eichmanns.” In the firebrand’s defense, Mr. Sandoval offered the standard-issue rhetoric of academic freedom: Mr. Churchill’s words were hurtful and terrible, yes, but […]

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  • Bollinger Unlikely To Put Restrictions on Political Bias in Classroom

    April 11, 2005

    Columbia University’s president, Lee Bollinger, is unlikely to impose restrictions on political bias in the classroom, according to a professor familiar with the situation. Instead, Mr. Bollinger’s strategy in dealing with complaints about politicized teaching appears to rely on revamped procedures for handling student grievances and the hiring of additional faculty members with different viewpoints. “The administration will probably refrain from any steps that would be seen as trying to dictate what any professor says in the classroom,” a professor of Middle Eastern history and a former director of Columbia’s Middle East Institute, Richard Bulliet, said last week. Mr. Bollinger’s […]

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  • Outsiders Respond To Ad Hoc Report

    April 11, 2005

    The March 31st report on the controversy surrounding Middle East studies had some strong words for outside organizations that have inserted themselves into the debate, but that hasn’t kept those organizations silent. In the week and a half since the release of the ad hoc faculty committee’s report on students’ allegations of classroom intimidation, groups from the David Project to the New York Civil Liberties Union have responded with a mixture of criticism and spin. While the content of their reactions has varied widely, the uniform intensity with which they have responded indicates how firmly the issue has been seized […]

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  • Transparency or a ‘Selig Strategy’?

    April 1, 2005

    As Commissioner Bud Selig and several prominent players attempted to evade subpoenas for recent House of Representatives hearings on baseball’s steroid problem, Rep. Henry Waxman observed, “What strikes me is that baseball doesn’t want to investigate it and they don’t want us to investigate it.” The California congressman summed up baseball’s policy as “don’t know, don’t tell.” This “Selig Strategy” could also describe the academy’s response to indications that the nation’s humanities and social sciences departments suffer from a lack of intellectual and programmatic diversity. Calls for outside inquiries have been denounced as violations of academic freedom, while few if […]

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  • A Free-Speech War

    March 11, 2005

    On February 15, The New York Sun, in a front-page story, reported: “A Columbia University professor who has called Israel a ‘racist’ state with an ‘apartheid system,’ and who has supported attacks by Palestinian Arabs on Israelis, is scheduled to lecture a group of New York City public school teachers on how to teach Mideast politics to schoolchildren. “The professor, Rashid Khalidi, is director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University. His professorship is named in memory of Edward Said, a divisive scholar, and is paid for in part with a donation from the United Arab Emirates.” Three days […]

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  • President of FIRE speaks about assault on free speech at universities across the country

    March 10, 2005

    This past Tuesday, David French, HLS ’94, President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), spoke to a gathering of HLS students about how restrictive speech codes at universities are undermining the educational values upon which these universities are founded. French observed that even though he came to HLS from a religious college, not much changed in terms of the educational atmosphere. “I was going from one religious school to another religious school…it was just a different kind of religion.” This was a time according to French when Harvard was referred to as “Beirut on the Charles”.Upon arriving […]

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  • Academic Freedom For Some

    March 4, 2005

    When it comes to the basic protections of due process and academic freedom, it often appears that students and professors live in two worlds – one world for those who follow the current academic political orthodoxy and another for those who dissent.  Take for example, two untenured professors at major universities, Joseph Massad of Columbia and Thomas Klocek of Depaul. Many FrontPage readers are undoubtedly familiar with Professor Massad.  Extensively discussed in the documentary “Columbia Unbecoming” and in national media reports, Professor Massad has been quoted as comparing Israelis to Nazis and Prime Minister Sharon’s cultural views to those of […]

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  • N.Y. School Board Bans a Controversial Arab Professor

    February 25, 2005

    A pro-Palestinian professor at Columbia University, hailed by some Jewish students as a model instructor, is being barred by the New York City Department of Education from lecturing public-school teachers. A spokesman for the school board attributed the move against Rashid Khalidi, the Arab-American director of Columbia’s Middle East Institute, to “past statements” on the Middle East. Khalidi “should not have been included” in a 12-week course for public-school teachers on teaching about the Middle East — and “he won’t be participating in the future,” the spokesman said. The school board’s decision was praised by some New York lawmakers with […]

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  • Defining Free Speech

    February 18, 2005

    Four months after The David Project released Columbia Unbecoming, Columbia is embroiled in a public fight over allegations against the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures department. The latest, longer version of the film includes more examples of what it sees as “bias,” “intimidation,” and “harassment.” While The David Project and its supporters have every right to protest and expose perceived abuses at Columbia, it is essential for all involved to understand that nothing described in the film constitutes either harassment or intimidation in any formal sense.   Harassment is a badly abused term in higher education. For decades […]

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  • Speaker Discusses MEALAC And Academic Freedom

    February 11, 2005

    Open discourse on the controversy in Columbia’s Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures department regarding academic freedom continued Thursday night with the appearance of civil rights leader Michael Meyers on campus.   Meyers addressed a small group of Columbians on “Racism, Anti-Semitism, and Free Speech in the Academy” in Hamilton Hall. A native of Harlem, Meyers is currently a member of the board of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. He is the former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union and assistant director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and is the […]

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  • College students must be allowed to express their own opinions in class

    February 2, 2005

    Columbia University, formerly famous for its academics, will now be infamous for its “free speech” crisis. A recent documentary, “Columbia Unbecoming,” has cried foul on the university’s Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures department. The film alleges that the department’s faculty is systematically silencing pro-Israeli students, thus limiting or outright expunging their academic freedom to dissent. According to the Columbia Spectator, two civil rights groups, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) have joined the debate. The NYCLU has zealously protected the faculty’s actions, while FIRE has supported the students’ […]

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  • Ad Hoc Sessions on Freedom of Speech Controversy Begin

    January 21, 2005

    Today, and every Monday and Friday until late February, the ad hoc faculty committee founded in response to the controversy surrounding Columbia’s Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures department will meet to try to find out just what went wrong. Columbia’s MEALAC department entered the national spotlight because of Columbia Unbecoming, a film produced by the Boston-based Zionist group The David Project. The film alleged continued discrimination against pro-Israel students, but the debate that the film inspired between groups of students and defenders of MEALAC has broadened to encompass larger issues of freedom of speech and academic freedom. Now, […]

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  • Free Speech in Class Under Fire at Columbia

    January 21, 2005

    NEW YORK — There’s a battle going on at Columbia University (search) over freedom of speech in the classroom.   The debate began with a documentary film called “Columbia Unbecoming” that said professors in the Ivy League school’s department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures harassed pro-Israel students.   The New York Civil Liberties Union (search) supported the professors in a letter written to the university president, saying “students have the right to express their own views [but] it is not, except at the invitation of the professor, an open forum for students to express any views they wish at […]

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  • Democracy on Campus

    January 20, 2005

    FIRE’s involvement at Columbia University was featured on the January 20, 2005, edition of “FOX Report.”

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  • Intimidated Classrooms

    January 18, 2005

    The New York Civil Liberties Union has blundered into the growing controversy at Columbia University about charges by students in Middle East studies (MEALAC) that they are bullied and silenced in classrooms by certain professors who are vehemently anti-Israel. Professors have the right to compare Sharon with Goebbels or to declare Israel not to be a legitimate state—but do dissenting students have no academic freedom to question those professorial views in class? The NYCLU says that’s up to the professor.   These charges by students first gained wide publicity in a film, Columbia Unbecoming, produced by the David Project in […]

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  • Pro-Israel Students Seek Reprieve from Profs’ Alleged Anti-Semitic Bias

    January 18, 2005

    (AgapePress) – Professors in the Middle East studies department at Columbia University are being accused of anti-Semitism and ideological bias.   A new documentary film produced by a group called the “David Project” claims Columbia’s department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) is rife with anti-Israel professors who attempt to bully and indoctrinate students with their political agenda. In response, the New York Civil Liberties Union has written a letter to Columbia president Lee Bollinger on behalf of the accused faculty, arguing the professors “must retain broad latitude to think as they will and to write as […]

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  • Academic Freedom Group Enters Fray

    January 11, 2005

    The New York Civil Liberties Union came under sharp criticism yesterday from another civil-liberties group, which says it is sanctioning censorship in the classroom at Columbia University.   Last month, the NYCLU warned Columbia’s president, Lee Bollinger, that students and others who have accused faculty members of intimidating students were waging an “assault” on academic freedom. The NYCLU, the New York State affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, also questioned the right of students to challenge faculty members in the classroom.   The group’s dismissal of the student claims brought it a scolding from a prominent academic-freedom watchdog group, […]

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  • Sexton Takes On Issues of Tenure, Academic Freedom

    December 3, 2004

    Proving to be one of the most outspoken university presidents in the nation, John Sexton of New York University has seized upon two hotly debated issues in higher education: tenure and academic freedom. As he presses forward with a plan to create a cadre of full-time teachers who would be ineligible for permanent faculty appointments, Mr. Sexton, former dean of NYU’s law school, is redefining the traditional notion of tenure at research universities – in a way that has alarmed some advocates of the tenure system. In re-examining tenure, Mr. Sexton, 62, has also issued a comprehensive assessment of academic […]

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  • Welcome to the Fun-Free University

    October 1, 2004

    In April 1968, student activists at Columbia University schemed to take over the dean’s office as a protest against the Vietnam War and plans to build a new gym. More than 700 students were arrested, and the uprising won national attention. But the school’s buttoned-up administrators hadn’t wanted to involve the police, and the rioters eventually were allowed to graduate. The mayor of New York, John Lindsay, even arrived in December to address the students and applaud “the urgent, authentically revolutionary work of this generation.” How much of that revolution has carried over to the Columbia of 2004? Registered students […]

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  • Speech Codes: Alive and Well at Colleges…

    August 1, 2003

    By Greg Lukianoff at The Chronicle of Higher Education

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  • University Senate Affirms Free Speech

    October 29, 2001

    Concerned that the nearly unanimous support for a military response to the attacks of Sept. 11 could stifle those with opposing views, the University Senate reaffirmed Columbia’s commitment to free speech and open debate. A student-sponsored resolution, which passed with no votes against and just one abstention, called on members of the Columbia community to “preserve an environment conducive to the free exchange of ideas and the civil discussion of diverse opinions.” In Friday’s resolution, the Senate stated that “Columbia University is dedicated to the free expression of ideas and open debate as well as the respect for diversity of […]

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  • Columbia’s Due Process Cont’d.

    May 21, 2001

    The Wall Street Journal

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  • Kafka U.

    March 7, 2001

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  • “Shut up:” Columbia’s New Approach to Debate

    February 28, 2001

    GUILTY until proven innocent. That seems to be Columbia University’s take on anyone accused of sexual misconduct. And it’s not up for discussion. Under rules the school adopted last year, students accused of sexual indiscretions have no right to counsel, no right to confront their accusers and no right to cross-examine witnesses. In other words, no rights at all. And when the Columbia Civil Liberties Union tried to hold a round-table discussion on the new policy last Friday, neither university administrators nor members of Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER, the on-campus advocates who pushed for the rules) were even […]

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  • Student Groups Must Act

    February 28, 2001

    In recent discussions about the Sexual Misconduct Policy, the Columbia campus has witnessed ardent attempts to portray a community divided between those favoring student rights and those somehow opposed to this notion. This is, of course, a false characterization, since most informed individuals recognize that while last year’s student activism surrounding the Policy met with much success, the actual disciplinary procedures at Columbia, and in fact nationwide, can always benefit from further reform. However, many members of the community, including SAFER, do take issue with certain activities recently adopted in the name of reform. Rather than engage in endless polemic […]

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  • Thought Reform 101

    March 1, 2000

    At Wake Forest University last fall, one of the few events designated as “mandatory” for freshman orientation was attendance at Blue Eyed, a filmed racism awareness workshop in which whites are abused, ridiculed, made to fail, and taught helpless passivity so that they can identify with “a person of color for a day.” In Swarthmore College’s dormitories, in the fall of 1998, first-year students were asked to line up by skin color, from lightest to darkest, and to step forward and talk about how they felt concerning their place in that line. Indeed, at almost all of our campuses, some […]

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  • 1998 v. 2001

    November 18, 1998

    Universities keep telling us they’re committed to freedom of speech. But once the politically correct people start howling about the wrong sort of speakers, administrators usually fall in line and find a way to cancel or discourage the talks. This happened to me Saturday at Columbia University, along withconservative author Dinesh D’Souza and six other speakers. We were invited to talk at the Faculty House by Accuracy in Academia, an offshoot of the conservative media watchdog group Accuracy inMedia. We ended up off-campus, speaking to a tiny crowd on asidewalk, surrounded by cops and protesters. Our speeches were scheduled to follow a […]

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  • Columbia University Student Points to ‘An attitude problem’

    May 8, 2013

    In an insightful piece published in the Columbia Spectator last week, Columbia University student Alessandra Poblador warns students not to conflate tact and positivity with self-censorship. She notes that the desire to be “politically correct” at times “stifles the freedom and elegance of expression.” Perhaps more critically, though, she explains why the adjustments we make to our speech do little to address underlying problems like intolerance or ignorance.  [T]raining ourselves to speak in ways that are politically correct does not necessarily correspond with the actual development of a tolerant perspective. That is the fundamental problem with political correctness. The arguments that […]

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  • In Defending Free Speech, Bollinger’s Rhetoric Doesn’t Match Results

    March 22, 2012

    The American Constitution Society’s Harvard Law & Policy Review recently ran an engaging interview with Columbia University President Lee Bollinger in which Bollinger discusses free speech issues on both a national and global level. I recommend reading it in full.   At one point in the interview, HLPR asks Bollinger about the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s recent holding in Ward v. Polite, arising from a claim by former counseling graduate student Julea Ward against Eastern Michigan University. (For more on that case, read Will Creeley’s two-part breakdown here and here.) Regarding the Sixth Circuit’s opinion, […]

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  • Will Columbia University Students Respect Jim Gilchrist’s Right to Free Speech This Time?

    February 2, 2012

    Recent articles in the Columbia Spectator address the recently announced plans of the Columbia University College Republicans (CUCRs) to bring Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the controversial Minuteman Project, to speak at Columbia this spring. Given the melee that ensued when he spoke at Columbia in 2006 (also as a guest of the CUCRs), this is no small event. When Gilchrist spoke at Columbia on October 4, 2006, several protesters of Gilchrist’s and the Minutemen’s anti-illegal immigration views and tactics forcibly took the stage to disrupt the event. The protesters’ violence was roundly condemned, and several students were ultimately disciplined […]

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  • ‘Columbia Spectator’ Examines Student Rights at Columbia

    March 11, 2010

    A reflective opinion piece in the Columbia Spectator, published yesterday by student Derek Turner, examines the state of student rights at Columbia University and asks important questions about the range of rights and decision-making authority students should reasonably expect at Columbia. It is always a worthwhile exercise to assess whether one’s university is delivering on the promises it has made to students and faculty to lure them to campus, or whether the school’s administration is instead failing to meet the legitimate expectations it has created. Moreover, the article is timely in that Columbia students have recently sought to make their […]

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  • More Unsavory Disinvitations: This Time, Nonie Darwish at Princeton and Columbia

    December 10, 2009

    More points were scored recently for the angry “heckler’s veto” when protesters (including at least one Princeton administrator) successfully pressured Nonie Darwish’s student hosts to cancel her speaking events at Princeton and Columbia universities. Darwish is Founder and Director of Former Muslims United. Darwish’s November 18, 2009, speech at Princeton was canceled the evening before she was scheduled to speak, according to The Daily Princetonian, because of her previously expressed views. Both student groups that were sponsoring the event, Tigers for Israel and the American Whig-Cliosophic Society (Whig-Clio), withdrew. Each group gave a different, strange reason for withdrawing. For Tigers […]

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  • Former FIRE Intern Criticizes Columbia’s Speech Code and Bureaucracy

    September 21, 2009

    Former FIRE intern and Columbia student Noah Baron has another excellent post on the Columbia Spectator blog Commentariat (see the other here) about Columbia University’s egregiously repressive sexual harassment policies (see all of Columbia’s illiberal policies in our Spotlight database here). During his time at FIRE, Noah learned about FIRE’s work on speech codes and privately conducted his own research into Columbia’s policies. He discovered policies that are often repressive, at best hopelessly unclear, and enforced by an unresponsive bureaucracy. Noah writes: I decided to do some research on my own to see what this was all about, only to […]

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  • Rights in the News: FIRE Keeps Up The Fight While Taking Message to Vegas and D.C.

    July 10, 2009

    FIRE has been busy taking its message to the streets this week, with Luke and I spending Wednesday signing up new CFN members at this year’s Campus Progress Conference in Washington, D.C., and Greg, Brandon, Alisha, and Adam jetting off to sunny Las Vegas for the annual FreedomFest Conference. Fortunately, with FIRE a bit short on manpower for much of the week, our industrious summer interns have kept the ball rolling. Notably, Noah Baron put his internship to good use in writing for the blog of the Columbia Spectator, calling attention to Columbia University’s “truly bizarre and disturbing” speech codes. […]

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  • FIRE Intern Examines Columbia’s Speech Codes, Calls for Rescission

    July 9, 2009

    FIRE intern Noah Baron has a post this week over at the Columbia Spectator‘s Commentariat blog discussing Columbia University‘s shameful speech codes, recently profiled in FIRE’s review of US News & World Report‘s top 25 colleges and universities. In his post, “President Bollinger, Tear Down This Speech Code,” Noah writes: Columbia University has a number of troublesome policies which constrict student speech on campus in truly bizarre and disturbing ways. Whether all or some of these policies are actually enforced is more or less irrelevant, largely because of the fact that this simply means they can be enforced only when […]

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  • The State of Free Speech on Campus: Columbia University

    May 11, 2009

    Throughout the spring semester, FIRE is drawing special attention to the state of free speech at America’s top 25 national universities (as ranked by U.S. News & World Report). Today we review policies at Columbia University, which FIRE has given a red-light rating for maintaining policies that clearly and substantially restrict free expression on campus. Since Columbia is a private university, we look first at what commitments Columbia has made to protect the right to free speech. We need not look far; Columbia’s Rules of University Conduct explicitly state that While the University as a private institution is not subject […]

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  • Greg to Speak at Columbia Law School Today

    March 30, 2009

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will speak at Columbia Law School’s Jerome Green Hall (116th and Amsterdam) at 12:15 p.m. today. Greg’s speech, which is entitled “Unlearning Liberty,” is hosted by former FIRE intern and current Columbia Law student Alanna Kaufman and the Columbia ACLU.

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  • Silence From Teachers College

    April 16, 2008

    When Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman told FIRE last May that the school would be taking another look at the language used to describe its evaluative criteria, naturally we took her at her word. After all, we figured that Fuhrman likely became President of what is arguably our nation’s most prestigious education school by keeping the interests of her students front and center. Therefore, it only made sense that she would want to reform Teachers College’s troubling reliance on ideologically charged “dispositions” in assessing student performance after being informed of the problem with doing so. Here’s a quick recap, taken […]

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  • Nat Hentoff on Columbia and the First Amendment

    October 10, 2007

    In yesterday’s Village Voice, Nat Hentoff (a member of FIRE’s Board of Advisors) points out an ominous development in Columbia University’s invitation to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Hentoff writes: Until now, I have not mentioned the free speech rallying cry, “the First Amendment,” because Columbia is a private university and the First Amendment doesn’t kick in unless there is action by an agent or agency of the state (local, state, and federal) to repress speech. But the warfare on Lee Bollinger’s alleged perversion of academic freedom has indeed become a First Amendment issue—thanks to Sheldon Silver, speaker of the New […]

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  • Professor, Examine Thyself

    October 8, 2007

    Check out Peter Berkowitz’s op ed, “Ethics 101,” in today’s Wall Street Journal. In his article, Berkowitz points out that, while centers to study ethics exist at many campuses across the country, including some of the nation’s most prestigious universities, few spend much time examining ethical issues relating to higher education. He writes: Celebrating its 20th anniversary last spring, the Harvard University Program on Ethics and the Professions is among the nation’s oldest and most distinguished. Yet of the more than 130 public lectures by eminent visitors sponsored over the last two decades by the Harvard ethics program, only three […]

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  • ‘Free Speech and Double Standards’

    October 3, 2007

    Be sure to check out Stuart Taylor’s hard-hitting piece in the National Journal on “Free Speech and Double Standards” in academia. With regards to Columbia’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Taylor points out: It would be easier to stomach the free-speech grandstanding of Lee Bollinger, Columbia’s president and Ahmadinejad’s histrionically hostile host, and others of Bollinger’s ilk if they were a bit less selective in their devotion to the First Amendment. When a student group recently canceled an event featuring an anti-illegal-immigration speaker for fear of a hecklers’ veto by leftist students, for example, Bollinger had nothing to say. Taylor also brings much-needed […]

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  • John Leo on Lee Bollinger

    September 28, 2007

    The indispensable John Leo has an insightful post over at Minding the Campus on Columbia President Lee Bollinger’s statement that Columbia University has a “long-standing tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate…” As Torch readers know and John Leo points out, “There is no such tradition, and very little debate at Columbia.” Mayor Bloomberg has weighed in, asking Bollinger to do something on his campus where so many people are being censored. After recounting Columbia’s bungling of the Columbia radicals disrupting Jim Gilchrist last year, Mr. Leo labels FIRE “the most powerful free-speech watchdog in the country” […]

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  • Ahmadinejad at Columbia Wrapup

    September 25, 2007

    The reviews are in, and it seems that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not disappoint in his speech yesterday at Columbia University. After a hostile introduction from Columbia President Lee Bollinger, Ahmadinejad proceeded to call for more research on whether the Holocaust occurred and, in probably the most bizarre remark of the night, deny that Iran has any homosexuals, a comment that drew laughter from the audience. The Washington Post has a good summary of the event, while the New York Daily News and New York Post offered their own commentary on the speech. Memeorandum and Technorati have more blog […]

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  • Ahmadinejad at Columbia Roundup

    September 24, 2007

    One of the top stories in the nation today is the speech that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad just finished giving at Columbia University. Here’s an early report on the speech from FOXNews.com, and video of the speech is available on the front page. The Columbia Spectator has also been liveblogging the event. Yesterday, the AP reported on the debate over “extremist speakers” at colleges, quoting FIRE co-founder Harvey Silverglate. Finally, here on The Torch, FIRE’s own Sean Clark covered the contrast between Columbia’s invitation to Ahmadinejad and its disinvitation of Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist. We’ll also be following the […]

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  • Columbia Nixes Speech by Minuteman Project Founder, Instead Invites Holocaust Denier

    September 20, 2007

    In the span of one day, Columbia University managed to once again demonstrate its strained relationship with freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas. Yesterday, Columbia cancelled a planned event featuring Jim Gilchrist, the Minuteman Project founder who was run off the stage by disruptive and violent protests last year, and then just today announced that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be speaking at a forum on Monday. The event featuring Gilchrist was meant to be an installment of the “Friendly Fire” speaker series, which was designed to bring about discussions between divergent viewpoints in a civil and challenging […]

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  • Minuteman Founder to Speak at Columbia University

    September 18, 2007

    According to the Columbia Spectator, a student newspaper at Columbia University, Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist is slated to return to Columbia’s campus for a speaking engagement after last year’s speech was ended by a disruptive protest that turned violent. The incident last year was a real black eye for Columbia that garnered national media attention and condemnation from figures like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Unfortunately, at least one of the students censured by Columbia for his role in the disruptive protest seems not to have gotten the message that silencing those he disagrees with is not the […]

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  • Columbia President Gets Booed, But Does He Get It?

    August 30, 2007

    An editorial in the New York Post today drew attention to the booing and jeering Columbia President Lee Bollinger received at the August 15th Community Board 9 hearing in Harlem where Bollinger was making the case for Columbia’s proposed campus expansion. While Bollinger was visibly annoyed at the crowd—a YouTube video of the incident is available here—the Post notes that “at least he got to speak. And nobody rushed up and shoved him.” While Bollinger was able to complete his speech and escape any physical altercation, controversial speeches held at Columbia are not always so calm. Last fall, for example, […]

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  • Today’s ‘Campus Alert’: Think Like Us—Or Else

    June 4, 2007

    We used today’s Campus Alert column in the New York Post to point out problems with Columbia University’s Teachers College student evaluation criteria, which includes the use of “dispositions” to evaluate its students. One such “disposition” the school uses is the student’s “Respect for Diversity and Commitment to Social Justice.” This may sound admirable at first until one considers the subjectivity involved in such an evaluation. As we stated in Campus Alert: This warps the discussion of whether a student might make a good teacher into whether that student has the “correct” personal, religious or political beliefs. Evaluating students’ aptitude […]

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  • ‘From the President’ in ‘The FIRE Quarterly’

    May 24, 2007

    FIRE President Greg Lukianoff’s new column in the latest FIRE Quarterly explores how university administrators’ try to squelch student speech acting “like the censors of the Victorian era—morally infallible, plugged into absolute truth, and engaged in saving the country’s soul from incivility or impropriety. As Greg points out, FIRE’s recent cases at Johns Hopkins University, San Francisco State University (SFSU), and Columbia University’s Teachers College have all brought with them galling attempts by university officials to crack down on expression by a variety of different methods that seem to want to save campus communities from impropriety. These tactics range from […]

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  • Litmus Tests at Teachers College: Changes to Come?

    May 17, 2007

    Earlier this month, FIRE wrote Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman to remind her that FIRE hasn’t forgotten about her school’s use of ideological litmus tests to evaluate students. Torch readers will remember that Teachers College employs a set of “dispositions” to grade student performance. One of these dispositions—“Respect for Diversity and Commitment to Social Justice”—requires students to demonstrate their commitment to “social justice” in order to successfully complete their course of study at Teachers College. Because evaluating a student based on their demonstrated commitment to “social justice” necessarily requires an institutional definition of what is and is not socially just, […]

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  • ‘Spectator’: Three Students Censured for Columbia Protest

    March 30, 2007

    The Columbia Spectator reports that: The University has censured at least three students for their disruption of an Oct. 4, 2006 protest by Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist, one of the implicated students confirmed Tuesday. The disclosure, which came one day after it was revealed that three students had received lesser disciplinary warnings, signifies the harshest known punishment for any of the protest participants to date. The incident in question, as Torch readers may know, was a disruptive protest that erupted at a College Republicans-sponsored speech by Gilchrist, a vocal opponent of illegal immigration. In disciplining the protestors, it seems […]

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  • FIRE in the ‘Chronicle’ on Political Litmus Tests for Education Students

    March 26, 2007

    One of the ongoing scandals in higher education that FIRE has been keeping track of—and fighting—is the existence of political litmus tests at schools of education and social work across the country. And I don’t mean political litmus tests for professors, which is what most people think of when they think of bias in academia. I mean litmus tests for students, which may be even scarier. The problems and concerns with having a faculty that shares one monolithic political perspective have been well-publicized and are widely known. But while ideological uniformity among the faculty is a problem, forced ideological uniformity […]

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  • Dispositions in Teacher Education: Old Tricks, New Name

    March 14, 2007

    The Spring 2007 issue of Education Next features an excellent article on the widespread use of “dispositions” in teacher education. Authored by Kent State Professor Laurie Moses Hines, the article details how today’s “dispositions” are an updated version of the “mental hygiene” requirements widely utilized in teacher education between the 1930s and 1960s.   Hines’s article provides a useful historical context to FIRE’s ongoing battle against the disposition-based assessments currently employed in teacher education. Hines writes: The screening of prospective teachers for maladjustment 50 years ago and the dispositions assessments going on today have remarkable similarities. As William Damon of […]

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  • FIRE President to Address Free Speech at Columbia on Tuesday Night

    February 19, 2007

    Columbia University has arguably led the Ivy League in playing host to free speech controversies on campus over the last few years. FIRE President Greg Lukianoff will discuss Columbia’s past and ongoing free speech abuses at a panel discussion tomorrow night on the Columbia campus. The panel, which begins at 8:00 pm in the Hamilton building, room 304, is sponsored by the Columbia Political Union and will also feature Arthur Eisenberg, Legal Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and Allen Lang, National Student and Youth Coordinator with The World Can’t Wait.   Columbia’s recent history of free speech […]

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  • Columbia to Punish Seven Students for ‘Minuteman Project’ Protest

    January 19, 2007

    Today’s New York Post reports that Columbia University has targeted seven students with disciplinary sanctions for their participation in a violent protest against a speech by Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist. Yesterday, Columbia’s student newspaper published a January 7 letter signed by Senior Vice Provost and Rules Administrator Stephen Rittenberg, which was sent to the seven students in question. The letter, as reprinted in the Post, said, in part: I have received a complaint from a member of the University that you may have engaged in conduct that violation [sic] sections . . . of the Rules of University Conduct […]

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  • Columbia to Punish Violent Protestors

    January 4, 2007

    On December 22, Columbia President Lee Bollinger released a statement announcing the conclusion of the university’s investigation into the melee that erupted at the October 4 speech by Minutemen Project founder Jim Gilchrist. While Bollinger refrained from yielding much information—such as how many students are charged with violating the Rules of University Conduct and what the punishment will entail—he did list a series of new initiatives that the university will undertake to avoid students’ violent interruption of speech events in the future. In addition to notifying a number of Columbia students that they will be subject to disciplinary action for […]

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  • The Battle against Ideological Litmus Tests for Education Students: A Work in Progress

    December 29, 2006

    Freedom of conscience won a significant victory this year when the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), a leading accreditor of education schools, agreed under pressure from FIRE and other groups to drop its recommendation that education students demonstrate a belief in “social justice” in order to graduate. Many individual schools of education still maintain “social justice” requirements or other ideological litmus tests, but they can no longer fall back on the excuse that they need such tests for accreditation, making them more difficult to defend. Now, FIRE is taking the fight to individual education schools. This […]

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  • Bollinger Releases Statement on October’s Minutemen Protest

    December 22, 2006

    Today Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger released a statement addressing the violent student protest that erupted in the middle of a speech by the founder of the Minutemen Project on October 4th. The statement addresses, among other things, governance of student organizations and student-sponsored events, as well as disciplinary proceedings instituted against some of the students involved for violating Rules of University Conduct. Interestingly, Bollinger—who came under fire for the apparent discrepancy between his professed commitment to freedom of speech and the actual threats to free speech surfacing on his campus this fall—chose to release this statement midday on […]

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  • Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee of Censorship Agree: We Hate FIRE!

    December 18, 2006

    Some say that you can judge a man by the enemies he makes. I don’t know if that holds true for organizations like FIRE, really, but if it does, I feel like we’re doing pretty well after reading this article from the December 12 New York Sun. The article, by Gabrielle Birkner, covers an “armchair discussion” between Columbia University President Lee Bollinger and New York University President John Sexton at an Upper West Side Orthodox Jewish synagogue. Titled “Academic Integrity, the Middle East & the State of the Academy,” the meeting apparently focused not so much on the Middle East […]

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  • NYU President John Sexton: Free Speech Hypocrite

    December 11, 2006

    Inside Higher Ed carried a short blurb on Friday stating that NYU President John Sexton had been interviewed on the Comedy Central show “The Colbert Report.” FIRE had its own run-in with Sexton earlier this year, when NYU became the best-known college to censor a discussion of the Mohammed cartoons that roiled the world last spring. On the show, a clip of which can be found here, Sexton talks about how knowledge depends on “really allowing people to address the problems of the day, the real problems of the day, creatively, not with slogans,” and opines that we are not […]

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  • Why Are We So Afraid of Controversy?

    November 20, 2006

    According to an article in today’s New York Post, Brown University’s Hillel has rescinded a speaking invitation to Egyptian-born author Nonie Darwish after complaints from Brown’s Muslim Student Association. The Post’s Adam Brodsky writes:

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  • FIRE Mentioned in ‘Mallard Fillmore’

    October 27, 2006

    Yesterday’s ‘Mallard Fillmore’ cartoon poked fun at Columbia’s recent suppression of free speech on its campus, especially regarding the school’s reaction to the violent student-led protest to a guest speaker earlier this month. The cartoon points viewers to FIRE’s website for more information on Columbia’s take on free speech, which is available here. Loyal Torch readers know that FIRE has been featured several times in the popular cartoon, created by Bruce Tinsley. Thanks, Bruce—we really appreciate your help drawing attention to the fight for students’ rights.

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  • NY Post: Columbia Is “A Dubious Neighbor”

    October 26, 2006

    An editorial in today’s New York Post blasts Columbia University for failing to address “one of the most brazen attacks on free speech and academic freedom in recent memory” in the three weeks since protestors disrupted a speech by Minutemen founder Jim Gilchrist on campus. Indeed, as the Post editorial makes abundantly clear, nearly a month has come and gone since the violent brawl preempted Gilchrist’s speech—and “not a word of apology has been offered to those whose rights were trampled, nor an ounce of punishment meted out to the offenders.” Columbia’s continued silence regarding the internal “investigation” it insists is currently […]

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  • FIRE in ‘The New York Times’ on Free Speech at Columbia

    October 23, 2006

    Columbia University’s recent struggles with free speech were covered in the pages of The New York Times on Sunday, with an article concentrating on questions about Columbia President Lee Bollinger’s commitment to free speech on campus. In the article, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff points out that while Bollinger’s public statements endorse free speech, questions remain as to whether Bollinger can “walk the walk” when it comes to issues of free expression on campus. FIRE is continuing its efforts to ensure that Columbia lives up to Bollinger’s promises of freedom of thought and expression with a follow-up letter sent to the […]

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  • Asking Bollinger to ‘Walk the Walk’ in ‘The New York Times’

    October 23, 2006

    An article in Sunday’s edition of The New York Times contrasted Columbia President Lee Bollinger’s reputation as a First Amendment scholar with the rapidly growing perception of Columbia as a campus that stifles students’ fundamental freedoms. The article by Karen Arenson and Tamar Lewin pointed out that Columbia has been involved in four separate free-speech disputes in just the past month: over the language in a hockey club’s flier; the retraction of an invitation to the president of Iran to speak on campus; the use of an ideological litmus test by Teachers College; and the violent melee that shut down […]

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  • FIRE Responds To Teachers College

    October 19, 2006

    Yesterday, FIRE responded to the Oct. 11 letter written by Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman, which disputed FIRE’s characterization of Teachers College’s NCATE dispositions as “ideological litmus tests.” FIRE’s response, penned by FIRE President Greg Lukianoff, argues that the solution is straightforward: “eliminate the use of impossibly vague and politically charged evaluative criteria.” Lukianoff writes:    FIRE asks only that a personal “commitment to social justice” or any other vague or politically loaded term no longer be required of Teachers College students, not that the school as a whole abandon its attachment to a certain model of “social justice.” Indeed, FIRE has no position […]

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  • Was What Happened at Columbia ‘Civil Disobedience’?

    October 19, 2006

    Yesterday’s Inside Higher Ed featured an article by Elizabeth Redden entitled “The Complications of Free Speech.” The story focuses on varying student and outside groups’ reactions to this month’s struggles over free speech on that campus, most prominently including the Minutemen incident where students stormed the stage to protest a controversial speaker, leading to a violent melee. The article reports that while outside of Columbia condemnation of the protestors’ actions is widespread, opinions within Columbia have proven to be more ambiguous. It’s both interesting and illuminating to read the different views of the incident from different groups. However an important […]

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  • ‘Hartford Courant’ Opines on Columbia Mishaps

    October 17, 2006

    An editorial in today’s Hartford Courant discusses the ongoing saga at Columbia University surrounding the student-led protest against Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist. According to the Courant, “this wasn’t an isolated show of intolerance” at Columbia, a university whose commitments to free speech have recently been called into question by FIRE and several members of the media, including the New York Post, The New York Sun, The New York Daily News, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. The Courant editorial uses a favorite FIRE axiom: Bad ideas are not extinguished by denying their proponents the right of free speech. Sunlight […]

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  • Columbia, Social Justice, and the Importance of Dissent

    October 17, 2006

    Last week, FIRE highlighted Teachers College’s social justice criterion, evoking responses from both critics and supporters of the school’s ideological stance. Yesterday Greg explained that the reform that FIRE seeks is not a wholesale rejection of Teachers College’s organizing principles of social justice and critical pedagogy. Rather, FIRE objects to the requirement that students adopt a myopic vision of the best way to teach. Teachers College’s “Conceptual Framework” explains the school’s distinct ideology. Pages 26-27 aver that “Social inequalities are often produced and perpetuated through systematic discrimination and justified by societal ideology of merit, social mobility, and individual responsibility.” Teachers […]

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  • At Columbia Teachers College, a Serious Problem with an Easy Solution

    October 16, 2006

    Reading some of the coverage of FIRE’s opposition to Columbia Teachers College’s “social justice” requirement, I believe there are a few important points that need to be emphasized. One is that the change FIRE is asking for is really rather modest. It simply isn’t right to have a policy that says that students must demonstrate their belief in any ideology—whether that ideology be patriotism or social justice—at a college that claims to highly value individual freedom. Teachers College’s requirement that students demonstrate a “commitment” to “social justice” crosses a line from suggesting values to which educators believe students might wish […]

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  • ‘Torch’ Reader Responds To Teachers College Controversy

    October 13, 2006

    Torch reader David Ross writes in with a useful take on the ideological litmus test controversy at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Responding to Teachers College President Susan Furhman’s letter to FIRE, Ross writes: I am impressed that President Fuhrman has written a response to FIRE. But I am not impressed with her logic. For example, she writes: We teach a concern for social justice, but do not legislate a vision of what social justice is. What does it mean to teach concern for something without saying what the thing is for which you’re trying to inculcate concern? If you’re teaching students to be […]

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  • FIRE in the New York Post: Columbia’s Teachers College Enforces ‘Thought Control’

    October 12, 2006

    Be sure to check out FIRE President Greg Lukianoff and Vice President Robert Shibley’s column about Columbia’s Teachers College in today’s New York Post.  The column is a potent statement of precisely what’s wrong with Teachers College’s evaluative policies: Bollinger and Teachers College need to understand that requiring students to hold certain beliefs is completely at odds with a free society. Who has the right to tell students what political beliefs they must have?   As Columbia has amply demonstrated this month, universities are certainly not the all-knowing, infinitely wise arbiters of truth. Telling students the specific political beliefs they […]

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  • Columbia Continues to Feel the Heat in the ‘Sun’

    October 12, 2006

    Columbia remains in the news this morning as the New York Sun runs two pieces about FIRE’s criticism of dispositions at Teachers College, Columbia’s school of education. In the first, Eliana Johnson reports on FIRE’s letter to Teachers College and includes reactions from members of the school’s community. The second piece, an editorial, takes issue with Teachers College’s “Conceptual Framework” and its history.

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  • More Trouble at Columbia (Part 372)

    October 12, 2006

    Today, the Columbia Spectator reported that the University revoked invitations for nearly 100 off-campus guests of the College Republicans, just hours before the event the invitees were to attend took place. The College Republicans were hosting an event titled “From Hate to Love” featuring three former members of the Hitler Youth and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.   Columbia’s public affairs office released a statement that said, “The approved application was for a Columbia student event and their invited guests. Bringing 115 people who are not Columbia students and whom the sponsoring group cannot identify or vouch for is not consistent […]

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  • New York Civil Rights Coalition Joins FIRE’s Opposition to Thought Reform at Teachers College

    October 12, 2006

    Michael Meyers, the executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition (NYCRC), issued a passionate statement yesterday supporting FIRE’s objections to Columbia’s Teachers College’s expectation that its students subscribe to a nebulous definition of “social justice.” Meyers calls Columbia out in no uncertain terms, his statement declaring the primacy of individual thought and free inquiry in higher education. He writes, The self-described “Professional Commitments and Dispositions” at Columbia’s Teachers College sound to us like a Code of Conformity and Disingenuousness. They are especially troublesome, and fraught with intellectual gobbledygook in the guise of a mission of inculcating its students […]

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  • FIRE’s Challenge to Ideological Litmus Tests at Columbia’s Teachers College in the ‘New York Post’ and ‘Sun’

    October 12, 2006

    FIRE’s criticism of vague and politically loaded “social justice” requirements at Teachers College, the graduate school of education at Columbia University, has garnered attention in the New York media today. The New York Sun has an article on Teachers College’s policies and an editorial opining that such requirements exemplify how Columbia has forsaken merit for indoctrination. A column by FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff and Robert Shibley also appears in today’s New York Post, explaining that Columbia President Lee Bollinger’s recent affirmations of free speech are inconsistent with Teachers College’s ideological requirements. Stay tuned as FIRE continues to fight this battle for […]

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  • Columbia on ‘The Daily Show’

    October 11, 2006

    Students who hadn’t heard about the Minutemen controversy now have—last night Jon Stewart ridiculed the Columbia protesters and their attack on free speech on The Daily Show. Tune in to Comedy Central tonight at 8 for a rerun of last night’s show.

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  • Fresh Free Speech Disaster at Columbia: Teachers College Mandates Groupthink

    October 11, 2006

    When it rains, it pours—and as far as free speech controversies go, it’s monsoon season at Columbia University.   Following two consecutive weeks of widespread public criticism surrounding the University’s suspension of the Men’s Ice Hockey Club and the violent clash that shut down a speech by Minutemen founder Jim Gilchrist on campus, Columbia is guilty yet again of trampling individual rights on campus. Today, FIRE issued a press release calling for an immediate end to the serious violations of freedom of expression and conscience occurring at Teachers College, Columbia’s graduate school of education.   Teachers College, long one of […]

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  • Columbia Student Senate Committee Votes ‘Yea’ on Free Speech

    October 10, 2006

    According to an article in the Columbia Spectator, the University Senate’s student affairs committee unanimously approved a “Resolution on Free Speech at Columbia University” on Sunday. The Spectator quotes the resolution as reading, in part: [T]he Student Body of Columbia University has a right to invite speakers with varied points of view to campus, and it is unacceptable within our community, to take away someone else’s right to express their opinions and viewpoints…The Student Affairs Caucus stands behind the principles of free speech on campus, and demands that the Columbia University Community stand firm in our commitment to allow all […]

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  • Free Speech has Long Been Endangered at Columbia

    October 10, 2006

    Given Columbia’s current free speech debacle, it is important to remember that the hockey and Minutemen controversies are not coincidental and isolated events; Columbia has a long and distinguished record of shameless suppression of free speech. One such event took place in November of 1998, when Accuracy in Academia (AIA) planned a conference on affirmative action featuring Ward Connerly, Dinesh D’Souza, and John Leo. A group called the “Columbia Coalition for Affirmative Action” announced that it would protest the event; they were especially outraged that Ward Connerly, who had headed up successful attempts to outlaw racial preferences in Washington and […]

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  • Columbia University Ignores Objections to Thought Reform Amid Free Speech Controversy

    October 10, 2006

    NEW YORK, October 11, 2006—The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is calling on Teachers College—Columbia University’s graduate school of education—to abandon its ideological litmus tests for students. These policies are manifestly inconsistent with Teachers College’s written promises of free speech and academic freedom as well as with Columbia President Lee Bollinger’s recent statements on the importance of free expression at Columbia University. Teachers College’s Conceptual Framework, which represents the “philosophy for teacher education at Teachers College,” requires students to possess a “commitment to social justice.” Moreover, students are expected to recognize that “social inequalities are often produced and […]

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  • Columbia University: The Hits Keep Coming

    October 9, 2006

    The fallout from last Wednesday’s Minuteman protest at Columbia University continues to elicit critical response from a wide variety of sources, not least among them New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In an article published in Saturday’s edition of The New York Times, Bloomberg expressed his displeasure with the protestors’ actions, calling the incident an “outrage.” Bloomberg was also highly critical of Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, stating on his weekly radio program that “Bollinger’s just got to get his hands around this…. There are too many incidents at the same school where people get censored.” The Mayor’s familiarity with Columbia’s […]

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  • Protest Brawl at Columbia: Free Speech Loses

    October 6, 2006

    With the incredible volume of free speech controversies arriving seemingly daily from Columbia University, it’s reassuring to know that some members of the university community in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights remember what free speech is all about. The Columbia Spectator makes The Torch yet again this week, publishing a pair of dead-on commentaries regarding the violent protest that erupted at a College Republicans-sponsored lecture by Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist. First, in a Spectator staff editorial, the paper makes absolutely clear that free speech demands the ability to listen as well as to speak. The paper writes: The actions of the […]

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  • FIRE Weighs In with Op-Ed on Columbia Hockey Case

    October 6, 2006

    Check out today’s edition of the Columbia Spectator, for commentary from FIRE staffers Tara Sweeney and Chris Perez on the reduced punishment recently issued to the men’s ice hockey club for its “offensive” recruitment flyers. They call out Columbia for its failure to admit the real reason for the team’s reprimand: While we are pleased the club has regained its season, even the remaining punishment is disconcerting. Administrators and student government representatives have eschewed the free speech issue at the heart of the controversy, instead clinging to the club’s procedural errors and disciplinary history as being the reasons behind the […]

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  • Columbia Students Interrupt Conservative Speech with Chaotic Protest

    October 5, 2006

    Last night the Columbia College Republicans hosted a speech by members of the Minutemen Project, the conservative “vigilance operation” that patrols the Mexican border and monitors illegal immigration in America. The Spectator reports that the speech erupted into a brawl when students rushed the stage chanting and wielding signs that read “No human being is illegal!”   One student protestor told the Spectator that “I don’t feel like we need to apologize or anything. It was fundamentally a part of free speech. … The Minutemen are not a legitimate part of the debate on immigration.”   Regardless of whether one […]

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  • Columbia Retreats on Hockey Suspension, but Problems Remain

    October 5, 2006

    As announced in today’s press release, Columbia University’s Athletics Department reversed its season-long suspension of the Men’s Ice Hockey Club in reaction to mounting public scrutiny and criticism, reinstating the club for the fall semester. While the department’s decision will allow the club to compete this season, new punishments have been substituted in place of the suspension. Specifically, the club is now required to “acknowledge[] that the recruiting poster may have caused potential insult to some members of the Columbia community” and “make a written public apology to the Columbia community for the publication of the recruiting flyers.” It must […]

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  • Columbia Reinstates Men’s Hockey Club Following Free Speech Controversy

    October 5, 2006

    NEW YORK, October 5, 2006—After a week of intense public criticism, Columbia University has revoked its semester-long suspension of the Men’s Ice Hockey Club. Late last month, Columbia suspended the club for the semester—effectively canceling the club’s entire season—for posting recruiting flyers containing language that some found offensive. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), along with other groups and individuals both within and outside the university, vociferously opposed Columbia’s attack on free expression. The controversy began when the hockey club posted recruitment flyers around campus that contained the phrase “Stop being a pussy,” in a play on the […]

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  • New York Civil Rights Coalition to Columbia: “Shocked and Chagrined”

    October 3, 2006

    Michael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, has written a powerful letter to Columbia University President Lee Bollinger decrying the recent suspension of the school’s Men’s Ice Hockey Club for using the phrase “Don’t be a pussy” on recruitment flyers.      Meyers’ letter, which may be read here, is a brilliant articulation of the crucial value of free expression on America’s campuses. Urging President Bollinger to “speak up for free speech,” Meyers proclaims himself “shocked and chagrined” at Columbia’s actions, declaring that “enlightened, modern-day university presidents” have an obligation to “embrace and cherish the Bill of […]

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  • Associated Press on Columbia Hockey Case

    October 2, 2006

    On Wednesday, FIRE sent a letter to Columbia University calling for President Lee Bollinger to reinstate the men’s hockey club. The club’s season had been suspended because it posted flyers around campus that contained the phrase “Don’t be a pussy, play Columbia hockey.” The phrase is a play on the school’s mascot, the Columbia Lions, and has been used in other Columbia events, including a school-approved 2004 Homecoming T-shirt saying “We eat PUSSYcats like you for breakfast.”   Since then, the Associated Press has covered the story, and we expect more media attention to follow this case. Stay tuned to […]

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  • Columbia Suspends Men’s Ice Hockey Season over “Offensive” Flyer

    September 28, 2006

    On Tuesday, Columbia University suspended the Men’s Ice Hockey Club for the fall semester, effectively cancelling the club’s season. The reason? Club members, in a bid to recruit new membership, had posted flyers around campus containing the phrase “Don’t be a pussy.”   Apparently those words—a hackneyed play on Columbia’s team name, the Lions—were all it took for Columbia administrators to cancel the club’s season, place the club on probation until 2008, and require the club to make a formal apology to the Columbia community. This grossly disproportionate punishment was meted out despite the fact that the club had in […]

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  • Columbia University: Land of the Free?

    September 25, 2006

    On the same day last week, Columbia University announced that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been invited to speak on campus and then, a few hours later, revoked that same invitation. Although the entire situation presents many issues relating to free speech and academic freedom, I was most struck by a statement that Columbia President Lee Bollinger made shortly after news of the controversial invitation broke. While defending the invitation, he proclaimed his love for freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas. The Columbia Spectator reported that: Bollinger said he believes students and faculty will use the opportunity to […]

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  • Another Absurd ‘McCarthyism’ Complaint

    September 6, 2005

    The most recent issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education features a fascinating forum (subscription required) highlighting the battle for free speech and intellectual freedom on campus.  FIRE’s own Greg Lukianoff weighs in with an insightful piece, while Stanley Kurtz and Carol Swain make their customary excellent arguments.  One essay stood out from all the others, however, and not in a good way.  Jonathan Cole, a “university professor and former provost and dean of faculties at Columbia University” spends an entire column playing the “M” card: “McCarthyism.”  Cole argues: A rising tide of anti-intellectualism and intolerance of university research and […]

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  • K. C. Johnson Strikes Again

    August 26, 2005

    The invaluable K. C. Johnson has an excellent op-ed in today’s Inside Higher Ed. K. C. does a wonderful job of collecting evidence that much of the ideological uniformity in higher education is not so much the result of “self-selection” but instead the product of an academic culture that uses ideology as a stand-in for intelligence or merit. His most interesting paragraphs relate how ideological uniformity is justified by a desire to create a particular academic orthodoxy on issues of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation According to Montclair State’s Grover Furr, “colleges and universities do not need a single […]

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  • [Your College or University Here], Inc.: Corporate Labor Model Threatening Academic Freedom?

    May 4, 2005

    Looks like the privatization of schooling is getting more attention in the news. This staff editorial in the Columbia Spectator about administrative plans to penalize potential graduate student unionization strikers caught my attention today: Graduate students have encountered the same dishonesty that Columbia used with Manhattanville residents. Over the past year, Provost Alan Brinkley repeatedly assured students and the outside world that, even though the administration opposed unionization, graduate students were free to strike without fear of retribution. A memo published last week by The Nation says otherwise. Released with Brinkley’s signature, the memo outlines several avenues of punishment for […]

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  • The Attack on ‘Tenured Radicals’: ‘Fairness,’ ‘Civility,’ and Academic Freedom

    April 26, 2005

    Juan Cole, professor of history at University of Michigan, wrote an interesting article, “The new McCarthyism,” posted on Salon last Friday about the controversy over Columbia’s MEALAC department, the Ad Hoc Committee report’s treatment of the allegations against Joseph Massad, and, in particular, The New York Times’ response to the report. The article parallels the controversy with the McCarthy era by analogizing Sen. Joseph McCarthy with Rep. Anthony Weiner and accusations of being a “communist” with that of being “anti-Israel.” (See my and David‘s previous posts discussing “McCarthyism” at Columbia, and my post about the professors’ response to the report.) […]

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  • Columbia President Recommends a ‘Scholarly Temperament’

    April 25, 2005

    On April 17, Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, published an interesting op-ed in the Los Angeles Times titled “Teach Ideas, Not Ideology.” The article deals with the controversy over the Middle Eastern department that has rocked Columbia since the David Project produced its documentary Columbia Unbecoming last fall. That documentary alleges anti-Israeli bias at Columbia and accuses some professors of intimidation and harassment of students. In the op-ed, Bollinger discusses how controversies like those at Columbia are “accelerated and intensified by forces outside the university’s gates — by special interest groups, the media and increasingly strident voices on the […]

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  • More Students Speaking Out at Columbia

    April 21, 2005

    Once again, more exciting student news from Columbia! A report from The Spectator, “Allies Aim to Foster Campus Dialogue,” talks about a discussion group organized on campus for different student groups to build bridges of understanding with each other. The article reports: The students were gathered as a part of the Allies Series, a discussion group organized to bring diverse campus groups together to talk about their differences and how they can better build a campus community. The series, which ran for six weeks, was attended by students from the Asian American Alliance, the College Republicans, the United Students of […]

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  • Job Security = Academic Freedom?

    April 19, 2005

    Graduate Student Employees United (GSEU) at Columbia University and the Graduate Employees and Students Organization (GESO) at Yale University started a week-long strike yesterday, demanding that the universities’ administrations recognize the groups as workers unions. The Yale Daily News reported that in New York students carried signs that said: “Job Security = Academic Freedom.” The Columbia Spectator reported, “Today strike organizers are planning a noon speak-out with graduate students, undergraduates, and faculty members on academic freedom and collective bargaining.” Linking academic freedom with job security and unionization seems to imply that graduate students have a fear of losing their teaching […]

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  • ‘MEALAC, Meet the Students’

    April 15, 2005

    Columbia University’s Jai Kasturi and Abby Deift wrote an opinion piece in The Spectator today that I hope will help transform the Columbia controversy into an opportunity for finding some common ground. Here’s a snippet of their thoughts: Despite concerted efforts by the University and student groups to address the multiplicity of issues raised by the ad hoc committee report, external agendas continue to distract many of the parties involved in this controversy. Specifically, the faculty and grads in the MEALAC department and concerned students and student leaders need to meet and begin a conversation about their mutual pedagogical concerns. […]

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  • Columbia’s Report: Professors Respond

    April 12, 2005

    Joseph Massad wrote a “Response to the Ad Hoc Grievance Committee Report“ last week to defend himself and to analyze the flaws of Columbia University’s Ad Hoc Grievance Committee Report. He states: The Committee makes no attempt to relate Shanker’s allegations to two of its own findings: first, that those testifying before the Committee agreed that I conducted my class in an inclusive manner, both in terms of allowing everyone to ask questions and that I set no limitations on the questions that could be asked. How then was the allegation that I sought to exclude, whether directly or through […]

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  • Students Critique Diversity and Academic Freedom at Columbia

    April 8, 2005

    Two student op-eds in The Spectator yesterday and today are worth a read. Here are some previews. In the first article, “Another Kind of Diversity,” Jeff Waxman writes: The ad hoc committee report, released March 31, has effectively done nothing. It’s what one would have expected: a lot of words that don’t combine to say anything. There’s plenty of talk about “grievance procedures,” “general examination,” and a review of “prerogatives and responsibilities,” but no talk about any of the real problems or any real solutions. In the second article, “The Hypocrisy of Academic Freedom,” philosophy graduate student Costin Alamariu compares […]

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  • Columbia’s Report: A Failure of the Educational Machine

    April 7, 2005

    Reading Columbia’s report, what struck me was the utter state of confusion of all parties involved who had no idea how to handle any “problems” that arose between individuals in the campus community. In a very sad state of affairs, the report does not even mention what should be the first thing a person does when he or she has a problem with someone else: go talk to the person. Yes, I know, this is a radical idea. I mean, how could you even think of talking to that person who just offended you? Obviously, if the person has the […]

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  • Columbia Manipulates the Press

    April 6, 2005

    For several days now, we’ve been hearing from multiple sources that the New York Times was given an “exclusive” on the Ad Hoc Grievance Committee report by Columbia University in exchange for an agreement from the Times that the newspaper not talk to the original complaining students. This report purports to clear the university of anti-Semitism charges at the same time that it provides no real basis for that exoneration (for more information, see my analysis). If the Times had talked to the complaining students before writing its story, the tone of that story (which trumpeted the “no evidence of […]

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  • The Columbia Report: An Analysis

    April 1, 2005

    On March 30, 2005, Columbia’s Ad Hoc Grievance Committee issued a report detailing its findings regarding the ongoing academic freedom controversy in Columbia’s Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) Department. The Ad Hoc Committee was formed in response to allegations made in the film Columbia Unbecoming and elsewhere that MEALAC professors abused pro-Israel students and that the department exhibited an unacceptable level of anti-Israel bias. The report purports to present a comprehensive analysis of the relevant allegations combined with recommendations for reform. In reality, the Ad Hoc Grievance Committee’s report is largely a pedantic recitation of uncontroversial truisms that sheds very […]

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  • Columbia Releases Report on Recent Controversy over Free Speech, Bias, and Academic Freedom

    March 31, 2005

    The ad hoc committee established to investigate the grievance procedures surrounding the controversy at Columbia University has issued its report.

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  • Where O Where Have the Students’ Voices Gone?

    March 30, 2005

    Jai Katsuri, an eighth-year Ph.D. student in Columbia’s MEALAC department, wrote an op-ed in the Columbia Spectator today discussing the apparent silence of the majority of MEALAC students in the ongoing controversy surrounding their department. Katsuri adds to anthropology student Oguz Erdur’s previous op-ed, “Columbia Becoming,” which criticizes the use of dehumanizing power politics and “academic freedom” rhetoric in hiding what he believes is really happening on campus. Katsuri writes: Ironically, the current defense of “free speech” at MEALAC has had a chilling effect on this conversation. Oguz’s “territorial” metaphor to describe Columbia as an occupied state is appropriate in […]

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  • More ‘Mallard Fillmore’

    March 30, 2005

    For the third day in a row, Mallard Fillmore focuses on the problem of campus speech codes. In recent months, as the Larry Summers, Ward Churchill, and Columbia MEALAC department controversies have dominated the news, I think we are beginning to reach a “tipping point” of public awareness on the problems on our campuses. With the release of a new study demonstrating the overwhelming ideological dominance of the left in university faculties, there is little question that Americans will increasingly set their sights on reforming the Shadow University. As we have often said, FIRE’s goal is to create a true […]

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  • Columbia Dialogues

    March 14, 2005

    Last week, several interesting dialogues about the controversy at Columbia took place on campus. On Tuesday, March 8, Columbia President Lee Bollinger held a “Common Meal” with students as “a follow-up to the Feb. 23 Common Meal on academic freedom in which University Provost Alan Brinkley addressed students.”  While these “Common Meal” sessions provided an opportunity for “informal conversations” with administrators, they definitely did not seem as lively and candid as the student-organized debate on Wednesday night. Two student groups, Columbians for Academic Freedom (CAF) and the Columbia Antiwar Coalition, cosponsored a debate entitled “Academic Freedom and Censorship at Columbia—What’s […]

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  • Makin’ Some Harvard Lemonade

    March 8, 2005

    As the old saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It looks like Harvard President Larry Summers is trying hard to do just that with the lemons being pelted at him after making what some believe are pretty sour remarks about the possibility that innate gender differences explain the lack of women in the field of science. While at the Alumni of Color Conference at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) this weekend, I got the vibe on campus that the anger is not just over what Summers said, but his having said it in light of […]

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  • Williams: Friend, Not Foe?

    March 4, 2005

    I am also adding to David’s and Greg’s posts on Patricia Williams’ article “Power and the Word” in The Nation. David and Greg thoroughly defended FIRE from Williams’ understanding of our work, but in rereading the rest of her article, I found it actually brought up important points relevant to free speech on campus. First, Williams’ article touches upon a central issue of why defending equal rights to free speech is so important. While plenty of people have called for Ward Churchill to be fired, countless others probably wouldn’t mind if Bill O’Reilly and Lt. Gen. James Mattis also were […]

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  • A Puzzling Critique

    March 2, 2005

    A few FIRE supporters have written in to ask about a recent article which originally appeared in the February 28, 2005, issue of The Nation and has also circulated around the web. The article, written by Patricia Williams, contains a rather disjointed attack on FIRE. She begins with a discussion of Prince Harry’s Nazi costume and recent controversial remarks by a Marine general, then moves on to a discussion of free speech in higher education (mentioning Ward Churchill). She says this about FIRE: In this war of words and polemical personalities, there is an increasing privatization of speech. New, well-funded […]

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  • Not ‘McCarthyism,’ but…

    February 28, 2005

    While I agree with David’s view that the situation at Columbia has not reached the heights of the governmental abuses of the McCarthy era, I have to express my empathy with the struggle faced by the professors of the MEALAC department and many of the students involved in the debate. Let’s not forget that although protests and calls for dismissal by politicians do not constitute real intimidation or coercion in the legal sense, such reactions to unproven allegations against an individual, combined with other emotionally draining incidences, do significantly impact one’s morale and ability to go about “business as usual.” […]

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  • International News Lights on FIRE

    February 25, 2005

    What do Larry Summers, Ward Churchill, and David French have in common? They were all featured in an article published on Aljazeera today that discusses academic freedom in the United States. The article mentions recent controversies at Harvard University, Columbia University, and the University of Colorado, and includes statements from David that highlight the issue of free speech on our nation’s campuses. Looks like FIRE’s work is grabbing the world’s attention.

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  • Are Things Getting Worse?

    February 25, 2005

    A FIRE supporter writes with an interesting question: Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that your two latest cases (and some of your other more recent reports from other campuses) almost seem to indicate a “ratcheting up” on the part of those who wish to squelch free speech on campus. The brazenness of their actions is breathtaking. The Summers incident at Harvard comes to mind as well. Do you think this might represent some “last gasp” from these folks? Are they trying to get a few more punches in before they lose whatever semblance of control they have left? Their […]

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  • Columbia and McCarthyism

    February 24, 2005

    One of the most irritating aspects of the entire Columbia academic freedom debate is the persistent cry of “McCarthyism” from the MEALAC department’s defenders. A little perspective, please. For those who remember the McCarthy era (I was not alive then, but I can read history books), true “McCarthyism” involved a comprehensive effort by a U.S. senator to commandeer the vast power and reach of the federal government to root out communists and communist sympathizers from virtually every influential institution in American society, from the government to the film industry to academia. This effort involved governmental inquiries (coercive inquiries involving use […]

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  • Feeling ‘Intimidated’ Does Not Equal ‘Intimidation’: FIRE in the ‘Columbia Spectator’

    February 18, 2005

    Today, Columbia University’s student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, published my piece about the ongoing controversy there surrounding the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures department. FIRE has already offered its opinion on the crucial issues in this case. After speaking at Columbia Law School on February 2, however, I realized that the students there needed as much guidance about what was not happening as what was. In my opening paragraph, I write: Four months after The David Project released Columbia Unbecoming, Columbia is embroiled in a public fight over allegations against the Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures […]

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  • Conflicts of Interest at Columbia?

    February 11, 2005

    Ryan Sager of the New York Post has a story up about a report being released today that criticizes the ad hoc committee formed by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger to look into allegations of anti-Semitism in the university’s Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) department. Among other issues, Sager discusses the composition of the ad hoc committee: As the group’s report details, out of five members on Bollinger’s committee: two signed an anti-Israel divestment petition, one was the thesis adviser for Joseph Massad (a professor prominently accused of wrongdoing), one has written that Israel is responsible for […]

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  • The Paradox of Self-Censorship

    February 9, 2005

    In the words of Blackstar’s Mos Def and Talib Kweli, “The Man has programmed my conditioning; even my conditioning has been conditioned.” These lyrics truly resonate when reflecting on some of the recent academic freedom controversies on campus. One of the most disturbing forms of censorship (though it cannot actually be called “censorship” because no official authority is prohibiting speech) involves individuals who punish themselves by not exercising their right to express their viewpoint—individuals who engage in “self-censorship.” Have these individuals, or people generally, been conditioned to see themselves as “victims” of oppression (or “intimidation”) when, in fact, they still […]

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  • Welcome to ‘The Torch’

    February 8, 2005

    Today is the first official day of the new FIRE blog. Those who are familiar with weblogs will recognize both the format (the “group blog”) and the tone (slightly more familiar than the formal press releases on our home page). This blog represents FIRE’s decisive step into the daily debate over academic freedom and individual liberty on campus. While our work has had national impact, recent events—such as the Ward Churchill case and the ongoing controversies at Columbia and Harvard—demonstrate the need for FIRE’s unique nonpartisan voice in the blogosphere. Regular contributors will include FIRE Director of Legal and Public […]

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  • FAIR’s Unfair Critique

    February 4, 2005

    On February 1, 2005, ABC News’ World News Tonight ran a lengthy report detailing the problem of liberal academic censorship of conservative speech. The report highlighted three FIRE cases and included interviews of me and several students. Yesterday, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) issued a press release critical of ABC’s report (and critical of my quote in that report). FAIR’s release represents a perfect example of how partisan advocacy groups often use deceptive spin to protect their loyal constituents from hearing anything other than the things they want to hear. First, FAIR describes my quote in the piece (“You’re going […]

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  • Columbia Embroiled in Academic Freedom Controversy; FIRE Defends Student Expression

    January 11, 2005

    NEW YORK, January 11, 2005—For the last few months, Columbia University has been debating charges of anti-Semitism that have been leveled against professors in the university’s department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC). The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) entered the debate with a letter that defended the MEALAC faculty and argued that students had dramatically limited rights to dissent from campus orthodoxy. Now, at the request of members of the Columbia community, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) has weighed in with a letter reminding Columbia President Lee Bollinger that academic freedom is […]

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  • Columbia’s Slow, Secret Steps Toward Justice; Sexual Misconduct Policy Still a Bizarre Patchwork of Outrages

    December 7, 2001

    MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, NY—Despite all of the fanfare surrounding Columbia University’s promulgation two years ago of a so-called “Sexual Misconduct Policy”—a policy touted as a “national model”—Columbia, under intense and broad public criticism, has silently altered the text of its scandalous assault on student rights and decencies. Visitors to the web page of Columbia’s nearly two-year-old policy now will find a section that became “effective September 28, 2001.” Most of the changes are efforts to move hesitatingly toward meeting FIRE’s objections, without a single admission of prior and ongoing injustices. “The flawed policy was nothing less than a systematic withdrawal of […]

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  • Columbia Belatedly Embraces Free Speech, But for Whom?

    November 8, 2001

    NEW YORK, NY—With breathtaking hypocrisy, the Columbia University Senate passed a resolution in support of freedom of speech. After decades of watching Columbia trash and neglect free speech, legal equality, and all notions of individual rights and responsibilities, the Senate suddenly asserts itself, alarmed only about alleged patriotic threats to freedom of expression. The resolution claimed that, in the current climate, “some student members of the Columbia community have felt pressure to curtail their opinions of the national response to the September 11 attacks.” In response, the University Senate voted forty-six to none (with one abstention) to “reaffirm open discourse […]

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  • Columbia University Unable to Defend Policy in Public

    March 13, 2001

    NEW YORK, NY—The Columbia University administration, although invited by Columbia students, faculty, and parents, did not show up at a campus discussion of its controversial new Sexual Misconduct Policy. A few days later, Columbia refused to participate in a highly rated television news program discussing the policy. Columbia’s new sexual misconduct policy lacks even the most minimal safeguards and fundamental principles of fairness. Indeed, it lacks virtually all safeguards long considered by civilized societies to be essential for a reliable search for truth. Columbia came under national scrutiny six months ago when the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) […]

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