The dean of Columbia Law School is criticizing the university’s decision to invite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to campus.
Ahmadinejad, in New York this week for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, has accepted an invitation to speak on Monday from the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs. On Sunday, the dean of the law school, David Schizer, joined Jewish groups and others in criticizing the invitation.
“Although we believe in free and open debate at Columbia and should never suppress points of view, we are also committed to academic standards,” Schizer said in a statement. “A high-quality academic discussion depends on intellectual honesty but, unfortunately, Mr. Ahmadinejad has proven himself, time and again, to be uninterested in whether his words are true.”
Schizer described the Iranian leader as a “reprehensible and dangerous figure who presides over a repressive regime, is responsible for the death of American soldiers, denies the Holocaust, and calls for the destruction of Israel.” Still, Schizer added, “I recognize that others within our community take a different view in good faith, and that they have the right to extend invitations that I personally would not extend.”
Columbia’s president, Lee Bollinger, has defended the invitation on the grounds of free speech and academic freedom. Bollinger has pledged that during his introduction of Ahamdinejad he would issue “a series of sharp challenges” on several issues, including “the Iranian president’s denial of the Holocaust, his public call for the destruction of the State of Israel; his reported support for international terrorism that targets innocent civilians and American troops; Iran’s pursuit of nuclear ambitions in opposition to international sanction; his government’s widely documented suppression of civil society and particularly of women’s rights; and his government’s imprisoning of journalists and scholars, including one of Columbia’s own alumni, Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh.”