Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bollinger imperialism and free speech

The President of Columbia University is being severely criticised by much of his faculty, in part for his preposterous, bellicose remarks when the Iranian president visited to chat with the kids. His defense:

Mr. Bollinger, who likened his experience at the faculty meeting to watching open-heart surgery on himself, said that in his remarks to Mr. Ahmadinejad he was simply exercising his free-speech rights.

The fact that he has such rights is evident in the fact that he didnt' get tased, but how is this for an academic standard? No one can mark me down, because - although I have got everything wrong and presented opinion as fact - to do so is injurious to my free-speech rights. No one can hold me accountable, whatever the responsibilities of my role, because I am owed completely unaccountability by the Bill of Rights. Nothing I say can ever be criticised, because it's just, like, my opinion man. I don't have to bow down to you truth-fascists. Imagine a university that worked like that: I suspect that Bernard-Henri Levy would be at home in such an instution, as would Alan Plagiaritz. (In fact, I'm convinced they'd both be at home in another institution I have in mind.) The next time some neoconservative blithers about academic standards being in decline, I suggest people remind them that they are the biggest beneficiaries of such a process.