Friday, December 22, 2006

That looks ominous 

Powerline has reprinted a letter sent to the Columbia University community by its president, Lee Bollinger. Scott Johnson calls the message "incredibly pompous and verbose," which when said by a lawyer is pretty harsh, but when said to a university president is unsurprising. It is a long letter, but the part that should draw focus is this:

Second, we all understand that student groups should have the widest possible latitude in conducting activities and inviting speakers consistent with their own personal interests and beliefs. But along with the right to have controversial speakers on campus come several responsibilities to the overall University community. In order to better facilitate these rights and responsibilities, we have now reorganized University governance of student organizations. This change should enhance the coordination of student activities and improve the functioning of future student-sponsored events.

Additionally, we are implementing event planning and staging procedures to better accommodate events, no matter how controversial they may be. We are, for example, instituting uniform procedures for engaging speakers or groups from outside the University community. This will include an express agreement in advance of any event--between the University, the sponsoring student group, and the speakers or groups--about how the events will be staged and who from outside the University will attend.

That should be viewed as censorship. It says that the university is not an open forum for outside speakers. It also says that there will be additional controls placed on student organizations. It of course does not say what the controls will be. It of course is released on the Friday before a three-day holiday weekend when the campus is practically deserted. As FIRE points out, this is likely an attempt to fly under the radar. Which for university presidents is quite, quite usual.