The Spine

Political Conformism At Columbia


Here we go again. Columbia University was the seat of the revolution nearly 40 years ago. OK, you want to quibble: Columbia was second to Berkeley. Mario Savio at the latter, Mark Rudd at the former. Maybe you are too young to remember them. Frankly, they were thugs. Rudd actually was one of the founders of the Weather Underground which robbed and killed innocent people.

In any case, at academic institutions like these (and Harvard and Yale and Wisconsin and Kent State and any number of others) the enterprise of learning and teaching came virtually to halt. There have been undercurrents of these destructive instincts surfacing again here, there, elsewhere. Politically unfashionable speakers are shouted and pushed off the platform. "Incorrect" opinion takes courage to express. The chill of unpopularity is not just the cold shoulder.

And now, once more at Columbia University, political conformism is being enforced by hooliganism. During the last two years at Columbia, the denial of student rights to hold unpopular opinions on the Middle East, pro-Zionist opinions, in the classroom was effectively certified by a faculty review committee whose judgments were predicted--correctly, as it happens--even before the whole process began. This year, the denial of elemental liberties of speech was in the hands not of faculty (like Lisa Anderson and Mark Mazower) but of students and a few hangers-on.

The Columbia College Republicans invited Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman who patrol the border against illegal entrants between America and Mexico, to speak, along with one of his associates, Marvin Stewart, an African American whose views are, after all, broadly represented in the black population. In any case, as The Sun reported October 5, the protestors stormed the stage an created mayhem in the auditorium. In the end, Gilchrist and Stewart did not speak and were unceremoniously hustled off the stage.

I myself don't like the Minutemen, and I don't take to their appropriation of the patriotism of Lexington and Concord in 1776. But they certainly have the right to do so. And, for heaven's sake, they do have a right to present their views.

In the link to the power line blog, in and of itself a fascinating account of the confrontation, there are two other reliable links. One is to the dispatch in the Columbia Spectator on the event. The other is a tape of it. Is this the rebirth of the ugly sixties? I know that many people have nostalgia for those days. I don't.

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