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” and points to FIRE’s statements on the incident (here and here).

Leo further describes the methods Columbia has used over the last decade to censor speech:

One of Columbia’s favorite tricks is to cancel a speaker, or reduce the size of the audience, on grounds that violence might break out. Last fall most of a large crowd that gathered to hear former PLO terrorist-turned-anti-Jihadist Walid Shoebat was turned away over securities worries. Only Columbia students and 20 guests got in. The same thing happened to Dinesh D’Souza, myself and several other speakers in 1999. A large crowd, including many from other New York campuses, had tickets, but the administration (this was a pre-Bollinger year) ruled that only Columbia students could attend. This was not the deal that had been agreed on, but Columbia was adamant. Rather than speak to a tiny remnant on campus, the speakers withdrew to a park nearby. As I spoke, one student shouted “Ha-ha. We’re inside. You’re out here,” an excellent six-word explanation of how Columbia’s robust free-speech tradition actually works.

Schools:  Columbia University