Phi Beta Cons

Letter to President Bollinger

As widely reported, Columbia University recently denied free expression to an invited guest, Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project. Moreover, he was assaulted by a group of intolerant student protesters who charged the podium, threw over tables and chairs, and kicked and punched and kicked bystanders. Campus security officers stood by fecklessly, failing to act to stop the protesters; instead, they merely escorted the Gilchrist and other speakers to safety and ended the event.
In Democracy Project, Phil Orenstein posts his indignant letter to Columbia President Lee Bollinger. Herewith highlights of the letter, with which I concur entirely:

Columbia has failed in its mission as a scholarly forum for diverse points of view and instead has descended into a monolithic advocacy institution.
…By not taking proper security measures to ensure the safety of the speakers and audience, Columbia has failed once again to protect freedom of speech on its campus. This incident was a devastating defeat for academic freedom, intellectual plurality and professional standards and instead scored a victory for fanatical intolerance bordering on fascism. It evokes a chilling precedent set by recent weeks of violent riots, murders, firebombing of churches and death threats against Pope Benedict XVI by Muslim religious extremists who vowed to silence views that they find offensive.
As of [this past] Friday evening, administrators were not planning to take any disciplinary action and Chris Kulawik, president of the College Republicans, said that no university official met with his organization, as reported in the
Columbia Spectator.
My colleagues and I are outraged with the inadequate response by Columbia administrators to this disgraceful episode. In order to preserve and secure the academic freedom rights of all, we ask you to hold the perpetrators accountable for their acts of violent intimidation, and duly punish those who have endangered the safety of students and guests.
…We also expect future events sponsored by the Columbia College Republicans to have adequate security to fully protect the expression of diverse opinions. We will not tolerate the reign of anarchy in our schools in New York nor will we condone the actions of thugs who trample on the freedom of speech of others.

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