As many now know, last week there was a teach-in at Columbia University. The purpose was to discuss the war in Iraq.
I was not at that event. I imagine that, as is usually the case on such occasions, the speeches range widely in quality and character. However, one speech in particular went well beyond the normal range of viewpoints. In fact, the comments by Assistant Professor Nicholas De Genova are both shocking and horrific. At a time of war when American troops are in harm's way, his comments are especially sickening. This is not only my view, but the view of everyone to whom I have spoken on the Columbia campus.
Over several generations, a custom has developed on college and university campuses of holding "teach-ins." These are informal gatherings where faculty and students come together to discuss and debate the pressing and important issues of the moment. They are not authorized or officially sanctioned classroom experiences. Like any political discussion, comments can vary widely in their merit. In the interest of promoting full discussions of public issues, presidents of universities do not normally comment on particular speeches made at such events.
However, Nicholas De Genova's words properly invite anger and sharp rebuke; but they fall within one of our most precious freedoms, that of freedom of thought and expression. We have fought too long and with too much pain to abandon those freedoms now.