A Contrarian View of My Criticism of President Lee Bollinger

While “leftie” is not my choice of ideological labeling–I guess it comes with the culture wars–see College Freedom blog that articulated a different view on the efficacy of university presidents who interject partisan commentary to affect political discourse on a campus.

It should be emphasised that university presidents are not subject to academic freedom protection under American Association of University Professors guidelines. Academic freedom applies to faculty and students, although the latter is somewhat underemphasised in Redbook documentation. Academic freedom emerged as an antidote to at-will employment in which professors were unable to claim any job security and were subject to dismissal from ideologically hostile administrators.

Of course, free speech protection as developed in the First Amendment would apply to university presidents at public institutions since free speech generally does not apply to employees of a private university. However, simple justice would afford all university presidents the “right”–even if extra-constitutional–to speak freely without coercion and intimidation. I am not referring to Columbia University President Bollinger’s right of free expression in either the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Nicholas De Genova matters but I strongly affirm that it is best to eschew such partisan commentary for fear it may frame the politics and create a pall of orthodoxy on a campus. I have noted that at least in principle, the university president agrees with this assertion.

Given Dr Bollinger’s harsh and “schoolyard name-calling” reactionary rhetoric on the situation in the Middle East, I wonder if it would have a chilling effect on disparate dialogue on that campus particularly among non-tenured Middle East specialists. Columbia has been under assault by the David Project and others who wish to purge progressives from its ranks. I hope Dr Bollinger’s introduction does not contribute to a climate of fear and self-censorship particularly among its specialists on the region.

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