Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Witch-hunts in academia

Columbia University students pay dearly for the privilege of obtaining their Ivy League diplomas. I'm not sure what the price tag is, but I'm sure it's somewhere in the range of $40K per year. Apparently, freedom of speech is no longer part of the curriculum, however.

Columbia President Lee Bollinger vowed to take swift action against professors and lecturers who dared to speak out against Israel. Bollinger, caving in to pressure from the Zionist Anti-Defamation League, promised ADL national director Abraham Foxman that "the matter will be handled immediately".

The right-leaning New York Daily News published an article in Sunday's paper naming names and publishing photographs of the school's transgressors.

While university presidents have never been known for their ability to stare down alumni threats, particularly from wealthy benefactors, to threaten "swift action" means what? Will Bollinger demand resignations? Fire the tenured professors? This all smacks of academic McCarthyism.

Not all agree with Bollinger's plans to take action. Jewish Rabbi and Visiting Professor of Humanities at New York University, Arthur Hertzberg takes issue with the possibility of limiting academic freedom.

According to Hertzberg, "Certainly some blood does boil within the veins of concerned people, but I am very much afraid that those who would like to win arguments by charging that adversaries have limited their academic freedom may soon discover that those who would win by this sword can also lose in the same melee. "

If $40,000 doesn't buy you an education that instills critical thinking, then what's the purpose of education at all? When the supposed highest institutions in the land haven't the academic backbone to stand up to censors and demagogues, then why are we sending our best and brightest to these places at all?

No comments: