Phi Beta Cons

John Leo Awards the Sheldon

From the New York Sun:

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 Pennsylvania and the Babe Ruth of modern Sheldonism.

The president of Tufts University, Lawrence Bacow, looked the other way when a student-faculty committee put a conservative Tufts publication on trial for publishing two parodies. One was a mock Christmas carol making fun of racial preferences in college admissions, the other a satire on Islamic Awareness week.

The publication, the Primary Source, was convicted of harassment for what would pass as free speech on most other campuses. The committee ordered the publication not to run any unsigned articles in the future, a rule not applied to other campus publications. The committee also hinted that funding would be cut if other controversial articles were published.

Mr. Bacow or his staff apparently snookered the Tufts commencement speaker, Mayor Bloomberg. The mayor’s speech mistakenly praised the campus for respecting free speech in the controversy, although a harassment verdict had already been announced.

Another perennial Sheldon candidate, Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, had a notable year. In October, rioters prevented speeches by two Minutemen, members of a volunteer group that patrols the Mexican border reporting illegal immigrants.

Mr. Bollinger, a first amendment scholar, might have shown a commitment to free speech by inviting the men back, introducing them himself and providing enough security to prevent more censorship by riot. But he didn’t.

Instead, he let months go by before imposing a mild non-punishment on the unnamed perpetrators. The punishment “seems to have no more meaning than O.J. Simpson’s quest to find the real killers,” according to an article featured on the Web site of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a free-speech watchdog group.


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