With today’s speech by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, legislators are threatening to pull state funds unless Columbia engages in self-censorship and bars the speech. Columbia has not been a particularly reliable first amendment advocate in the past. In a shocking display of anti-free speech conduct, students shutdown a speech by the head of an anti-immigration movement and did not have punishment. The speaker was later disinvited by the student organization. Regardless of the value of the Minuteman activities, the Columbia students violated a core principle of free speech and should have been (at a minimum) suspended for a year from the campus. Columbia failed to take action, but it is now right to stand by its decision. Ahmadinejad is an odious, hateful, and seemingly unbalanced man. However, his views carry great sway in the Middle East. Universities are places for the free debate of ideas, including his. These legislators benefit from a state with some of the finest universities in the world. Rather than support those universities, they want to invade the protected area of academic freedom and turn campuses into the same fearful and politicized environment as current American politics.
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