|October 5, 2007|
|Academia's Chimes of Freedom Flashing|
|By Greg Hazley|
|After tightening up a bit, our poll about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Columbia Univ. is running about 60-40 against the school’s decision to host the firebrand. |
Much of the opposition to his speech came from right-leaning media, strong Israel supporters and politicos, while the left-leaning argument was, generally, “let him speak.”
Meanwhile, across the country at Stanford Univ., it’s the left that’s voicing opposition to the appointment of Donald Rumsfeld to the school’s Hoover Institution as a visiting fellow. While he doesn’t quite have the nefarious resume of Ahmadinejad, the controversy is seen by some as parallel.
An op-ed in the Stanford Daily argues this week that universities can’t support every controversial speaker that comes their way.
“The deference to academic freedom, however virtuous, may not be worthwhile in light of the overall goal of the University,’ argues SD staffer Stuart Baimel.
Victor Davis Hanson, a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, penned an op-ed in the San Jose Mercury News on Oct. 1 wondering if American academics have lost their collective minds. Hanson blasts Columbia for letting the “loony” Iranian president on campus, when it won’t open the gate for the ROTC, and says the university doesn’t understand the line between “responsible debate and crass propaganda.”
In arguing for Rumsfeld, he connects the dots to Larry Summers’ new feminism and the Univ. of California’s rescinded (and reinstated) appointment of a liberal law professor to be dean of its law school.
“In each of the above cases, the general public has had to remind these universities that their campuses should welcome thinkers who have distinguished themselves in their fields, regardless of politics and ideology. The liberal Chemerinsky, the Clinton Democrat Summers and the conservative Rumsfeld have all courted controversy - and all alike met the criterion of eminent achievement,” he wrote.
Ahmadinejad doesn’t fit that mold because he was using Columbia to popularize his hate speech, according to Hanson.
Of course, Ahmadinejad was skewered by Columbia's president and made a jerk of himself denying homosexuality exists in Iran. The appearance made him a laughingstock in the eyes of many Americans, and Saturday Night Live put the final nail in the coffin of his visit.
Rumsfeld went from revered to reviled in the flash of an IED four years ago and 2,000 students at Stanford signed a petition to keep him out. That's a great reason to let him in. His presence makes those same students boil when they think about his legacy, about the war that will be part of their own legacy, and about the ideology that Rumsfeld helped to stamp on the current government.
And while we're rolling out the red carpet for Rummy, why not give the next Ivy-aiming dictator the oratorical rope to hang himself in front of academia and our drooling press corps? I'm sure Mr. Chavez, Kim Jong-Il or Bobby Mugabe would jump at the chance.
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