Bollinger Finally Speaks, Freely

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PrezBo Speaking FreelyOur esteemed President Lee C. Bollinger, Free Speech’s Biggest Fan, has sent out a school-wide email in which he reaffirms the University’s belief in the first amendment, but condemns the actions of the more unruly of Wednesday night’s protesters.  In the email, he calls the “disruption” “one of the most serious breaches of academic faith that can occur in a university such as ours,” and laments the protesters’ “slide…[in]to the easy path of physical brutishness.”  In other words, like much of the rest of the world over the past few days, Bollinger just gave the protesters the authoritative, grown-up version of “Billy, stop hitting your brother.”  But Daaaaaad!

Read the full text of the email after the jump.



Date:     Fri, 6 Oct 2006 16:58:40 -0400

From:    “Lee C. Bollinger” XXXX@columbia.edu


Subject: President’s Statement on Freedom of Speech


Dear fellow members of the Columbia community,

Columbia University has always been, and will always be, a place where students and faculty engage directly with important public issues.  We are justifiably proud of the traditions here of intellectual inquiry and vigorous debate.  The disruption on Wednesday night that resulted in the termination of an event organized by the Columbia College Republicans in Lerner Hall represents, in my judgment, one of the most serious breaches of academic faith that can occur in a university such as ours.

Of course, the University is thoroughly investigating the incident, and it is critically important not to prejudge the outcome of that inquiry with respect to individuals.  But, as we made clear in our University statements on both Wednesday night and Thursday, we must speak out to deplore a disruption that threatens the central principle to which we are institutionally dedicated, namely to respect the rights of others to express their views.

This is not complicated:  Students and faculty have rights to invite speakers to the campus.  Others have rights to hear them.  Those who wish to protest have rights to do so.  No one, however, shall have the right or the power to use the cover of protest to silence speakers.  This is a sacrosanct and inviolable principle.

It is unacceptable to seek to deprive another person of his or her right of expression through actions such as taking a stage and interrupting a speech.  We rightly have a visceral rejection of this behavior, because we all sense how easy it is to slide from our collective commitment to the hard work of intellectual confrontation to the easy path of physical brutishness.  When the latter happens, we know instinctively we are all threatened.

We have extensive University policies governing the actions of members of this community with respect to free speech and the conduct of campus events.  Administrators began identifying those involved in the incident as it transpired and continue to investigate specific violations of University policies to ensure full accountability by those found to be responsible.

University personnel are also evaluating event management practices that are specifically intended to help event organizers, participants, and protestors maintain a safe environment in which to engage in meaningful and sometimes contentious debate across the spectrum of academic and political issues.  These are some of the many steps we intend to take in the weeks ahead to address this matter in our community.

Let me reaffirm:  In a society committed to free speech, there will inevitably be times when speakers use words that anger, provoke, and even cause pain.  Then, more than ever, we are called on to maintain our courage to confront bad words with better words.  That is the hallmark of a university and of our democratic society.  It is also one of our central safeguards against the impulses of intolerance that always threaten to engulf our commitment to proper respect for every person.


Lee C. Bollinger


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  1. mike

    good job bollinger
    for a pussy you finaly said something
    disgusting liberals need to stop being so hipocritical

  2. Times coverage  

    "Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg criticized the university today for not keeping better control over a public event.

    In his radio address, he said the protesters were infringing on Mr. Gilchrist’s right to speak.

    “If you get invited, whoever invites you should have the courtesy to let you speak and provide the protection so you can do it, and particularly on university campuses,” Mr. Bloomberg said in response to a question on his weekly radio show."


  3. wow

    i'm not sure i agree with karina, but she's FUCKING AWESOME

  4. mee  

    um how come pataki is in the background? did bollinger make a speech? i think its whole thing is hilarious. i think bill oreilly is funny. and i think its funnier that columbia kids are gonna be on his show! god bless america.

  5. joe

    all you overly pc rich bitch whiners.are no more than a waste of oxygen

  6. joe

    illegal immigrants.Are just that.Illegal.If you dont like the law maybe you should do something that will change them.

  7. joe

    if your all really that hard up for a creative outlet,than try exploring solutions that offer results.its ok to have different oppinions.But it is anti productive to just bitch

  8. david

    Bloomberg disgusts me. What a fucking hypocrite. Apparently his high-minded love of free speech doesn't matter when he lets his overly militarized police department routinely, and in some cases (i.e. RNC Convention 2004) trample over the First Amendment rights of protesters.

  9. David  

    "The First Amendment does not apply to the university, because it is a private institution. It can choose its policies for how to treat faculty utterances."
    -Lee Bollinger on the freedom of speech of MEALAC professors, October 28, 2004

    "We must speak out to deplore a disruption that threatens the central principle to which we are institutionally dedicated, namely to respect the rights of others to express their views."
    -Lee Bollinger on the protest against Jim Gilchrist, October 6, 2006

    -Lee Bollinger on the views of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, invited to Columbia, September 21, 2006

    -Lee Bollinger on the views of Minuteman Project founder Jim Gilchrist, present at Columbia, as of October 8, 2006

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