Saturday, September 29, 2007


Bitter Laughter continues to turn its eye to the topic of academic freedom.

And today's Inside Higher Education has a really startling piece about Ahmadinejad's speech at NYU which says as much about the state of American politics as it does about academic freedom.

What Ought Whom You Invite to Speak

It’s fair to say that Columbia University has heard more than an earful over its decision to offer a speaking platform this week to Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Reaction ranged widely, with many condemning the university for inviting the controversial leader, others praising Columbia’s president, Lee C. Bollinger, for sternly rebuking the Iranian president while he looked on, and some doing both. Opinions flowed freely.

On Wednesday, one vehement critic, with a prominent platform of his own, went a large step further. U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Californian who is also a longshot candidate (to be generous) for the Republican nomination for president, introduced legislation that would “prohibit federal grants to or contracts with Columbia University.” The text of the legislation — which college officials called “unprecedented” — was not yet available on any government Web sites.
Of course, this legislation isn't going anywhere. But the very fact that anybody in politics would think of penalizing an institution for promoting dialogue is simply asinine. Look at the much-watched video of Ahmadinejad responding to the question of gay rights. Is the bitter laughter of the crowd not amazingly powerful manifestation of the dialogical spirit?

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