Phi Beta Cons

Visiting Prof. Ahmadinejad

Lee Bollinger of Columbia University has tried to keep ROTC off campus. Next week, he’ll welcome the president of Iran to his school. The WSJ comments:

In Mr. Bollinger’s view, “the university has an obligation, deeply rooted in the core values of an academic institution and in First Amendment principles, to protect its students from improper discrimination and humiliation.”

Mr. Bollinger’s position might at least be coherent were he not now invoking the same principles to justify his invitation to Mr. Ahmadinejad, whose offenses to gay rights and any other form of human dignity considerably exceed the Pentagon’s. After promising that he would introduce the president “with a series of sharp challenges” — including Iran’s “reported support” for international terrorism — he went on to say that “it is a critical premise of freedom of speech that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open the public forum to their expression.”

We’re all for free speech and the vigorous exchange of intellectual differences, though we don’t see how Mr. Bollinger can be, given his decision to discriminate against young men and women who seek to make careers in the military. We also don’t quite see how the right to free speech — a freedom Mr. Ahmadinejad conspicuously denies his own people — is tantamount to the right to an illustrious pedestal. Columbia is a selective institution in its choice of students as well as speakers; its choices confer distinction on those whom it selects. Were it otherwise, Mr. Ahmadinejad would surely have better uses for his time.

We will say this for Mr. Bollinger: The tough-guy act he promises for Monday’s introduction will be something to watch. This time the irrepressible Mr. Ahmadinejad, we’re sure, will bow his head in awe.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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