The University of Chicago Law School’s Geoff Stone says that Columbia was within its rights and fulfilling its core values in allowing Iran’s President to speak. I don’t necessarily disagree, nor do I completely disagree with his statement that “[b]ecause a university must remain neutral on all matters of public policy that do not directly affect the university itself, it should not have a faculty vote, for example, on whether to condemn the war in Iraq, on whether Mr. Bush is a good President, or on whether Mr. Ahmadinejad violates human rights.” In other words, universities should be a forum for debate, discussion, challenging conventional wisdom, and the like. They are not mere instruments of propaganda, whether for the Church, the government, or anyone else.
But what’s missing from Stone and Bollinger’s defense of free speech and “diversity” of ideas and lifestyles is some apology for the reflexive hostility of Columbia University and most other Ivy League schools to all things military, going back to the student riots of ’68 and the expulsion of ROTC units from campus. That expulsion implicitly said: we do draw the line and make an expressive stand here; the military is too corrosive to the campus’s mission and we will not support honorable service within the same, nor will we allow our campus to be sullied with their presence and blandishments. Of course, nothing required anyone even then (during the draft) to participate in ROTC, accept the justice and prudence of the Vietnam War, or otherwise fail to adopt an independent point of view. It was just one option among many on campus, and the SDS radicals and the weak-kneed trustees simply kicked them off. Blackfive has the scoop on Columbia’s expulsion of ROTC here, and the Wall Street Journal provides some background here (registration required) as well.
Now the anti-military bias has been dressed up by the now-tenured radicals as opposition to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But we know this is just a pretext; after all, the rest of the federal government can still recruit on campus, not least for things like judicial clerkships and cushy positions with Senators and Congressmen. But the military alone, one of its departments, is excluded. It’s unthinkable this pick-and-choose approach would be applied to any other discriminatory employer, such as a law firm that discriminated in only one of its offices. No, the motive is the same now as then: hostility to mainstream America and its military and a failure of universities to recognize that, while they are places of debate and inquiry, they are also in some sense part of a society and owe its core institutions something in terms of respect, support, and fair treatment. I discussed the essential hypocricy of elite schools’ approach to the military in this discussion of the Solomon Amendment.
Anti-American despots are allowed on campus in the name of free speech and diversity, but the university’s own admitted students, some of whom carry with them valuable ROTC scholarships, are basically told they’re going to have to pursue their careers and their studies across town, with all the inconvenience and disrespect that implies. The hippies no longer need to spit in the face of our soldiers; instead, they can now spit in their faces figuratively and officially through discrimination, ostracism, and harassment.