One astute critic is David Feith, student editor of The Columbia Current, who recently wrote a critique of Columbia University President Bollinger’s “weak standard.” Among other examples, Bollinger stated that his reason for rejecting the invitation for Iranian President Ahmadinejad to speak at the campus was the likelihood that the Iranian president would not take questions from the audience. Had the condition been met — that is, had this Holocaust-denying leader of an Islamic terrorist state simply agreed to a Q & A session — he presumably would have been granted access to the university’s prestigious podium.
Feith maintains speech advocating murder is unacceptable in an academic setting. Campuses have a special duty to maintain definitive standards with respect to controversial speakers. As Orenstein concludes: “The boundary of what is acceptable and what is not should be drawn somewhere between the far reaches of repressive speech codes and reckless anything-goes free speech.”
The consequences of this debate are great, since ideas weigh heavily on the fate of civilization itself. Thus Feith’s warning that it is “irresponsible to promote ideas in the marketplace that would … destroy the freedom and openness that allowed them to appear in the first place.”