Columbia Students Take a Stand for Academic Freedom · 16 November 2004

"In all other areas of campus life, students do not hesitate to call for diversity," stated the editorial. "There is no reason why these same arguments should not apply to conservative professors in the humanities."


The Spectator cited many benefits that would result from a broader range of intellectual discourse:

"Right-wing students would be heartened that evangelicals are not the only proponents of conservative beliefs, and left-wing students would be forced to develop their arguments further and not rely on consensus as an intellectual crutch. Promoting faculty diversity is one of Columbia's greatest challenges, and finding a proper balance will be difficult. But it should be self-evident that a faculty that speaks with unanimity on some of the most divisive issues of the day is not fulfilling its duty. Students across the ideological spectrum must demand that Columbia address this need."

The full editorial can be read on our website here .

The Spectator's statement in favor of academic freedom comes at a key juncture for the University. In the last few weeks, allegations have surfaced that Jewish students on campus have been subjected to threats and intimidation by pro-Palestinian professors in Columbia's Middle East studies department.

Student Ariel Beery quoted Professor Joseph Massad as telling students, "The Palestinian is the new Jew and the Jew is the new Nazi," and Columbia alumna Lindsay Shrier revealed that she was told by Professor George Saliba that "You have no claim to the land of Israel. You have no voice in this debate. You have green eyes. You're not a Semite. I have brown eyes. I am a Semite."

Columbia President Lee Bollinger has spoken out against these abuses, and last spring organized an academic freedom committee on campus to explore the issues surrounding partisan speech on campus, stating that, "Should there be instances when people feel…repeatedly intimidated for political reasons…we should make it known that you can go speak to a dean or an advisor."
Taking Bollinger at his word, Students for Academic Freedom has written to Columbia's President to ask him to adopt the Academic Bill of Rights to ensure that all students at the University, regardless of their political and religious views, are treated with dignity and respect on campus.

"Given the scope of the allegations that have surfaced and this outcry from a mainstream student publication, we urge you to adopt an explicit policy statement on intellectual diversity and academic freedom reminding faculty and students alike that intellectual diversity is a primary educational value and the university is not to be used as a partisan political platform," stated the letter . "The Academic Bill of Rights, written by David Horowitz, our Chairman and your alumnus, succinctly captures the essence of the doctrine of academic freedom and we submit it here for your consideration."

The letter also refuted Columbia Provost Alan Brinkley's statement in an article last winter opposing the Academic Bill of Rights on the grounds that it would force a "particular teaching style" on faculty and could be enforced only by legislation and governmental interference.

"We recognize that as a private university, Columbia has only the burden of its own principles to compel its acceptance of a policy on academic freedom," the letter explained. "We hope you will live up to the high standard you have set for yourself by adopting the Academic Bill of Rights."

The staff at the Columbia Spectator has set the standard, not only for Columbia but for the rest of the Ivy League, and we are hopeful that President Bollinger will take this opportunity to follow through on his convictions and confirm Columbia's reputation as one of this nation's leading academic institutions by adopting the Academic Bill of Rights.

To join the Academic Freedom Movement or for more information on organizing a campus chapter, please contact me in our Washington, DC office at 202-393-0123 or at Sara@studentsforacademicfreedom.org.

Yours in Freedom,

Sara Dogan
National Campus Director
Students for Academic Freedom