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Columbia University: Opening the Door to Despots and Criminals

By Victor Cocchia | Columbia Spectator

Originally published September 19, 2005 | The hypocrisy of the Columbia administration reached unprecedented levels last week. In the administrators’ desire to satisfy the intellectual left, they have turned their back on the very core values that this country was built on and decided, in their misguided sense of logic and of what is right and wrong, to invite the Venezuelan despot Hugo Chavez to speak at our fine institution.

While this may not surprise many readers, especially those who openly question the administration’s policy of excluding non-ultra-liberals from the hiring process, it may shock some since it comes immediately after an appallingly feeble remembrance of the anniversary of the attack on America on Sept. 11, 2001. While the University could not find it within its highly bureaucratic structure to allow students to remember the innocent victims of the terrorists’ cowardly attack by putting flags into the ground (the same ground where daily Frisbee throwing and softball tossing occur), they did find it within their gracious hearts to invite one of the most anti-American world leaders to come and spout his hateful rhetoric to Columbia students and visitors.

At least 153 world leaders have congregated at the United Nations this week, yet the administration, in all its wisdom, has chosen to invite this leader, who has arrested and imprisoned college students who speak out against him, to speak at Columbia. Left-leaning groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both consider this man a criminal based on his human rights abuses and torture of his citizens. Chavez has even gone so far as to pass anti-insult laws. It confounds the mind when one ponders the question, “Couldn’t the administration at one of the world’s top schools find a more suitable speaker than one who sides with dictator Saddam Hussein?”

Wouldn’t the University have sent a splendid message if it had invited one or more of America’s allies in the global War on Terror rather than a self-proclaimed enemy of America. In light of the weak response to the MEALAC controversy last year, it boggles the mind that the administration would continue to send out such signals to its student body and the country in general.

If the blatant hypocrisy ended with the invitation to the oppressive Chavez, one might be able to stomach it, but it did not. The administration then decided to deny the request of student organizations to protest the visit of the dictator, obviously not wanting to hurt the feelings of a man who has called America “the enemy of all mankind” and who finds justification in the atrocities committed by Stalin and Pol Pot and the subjugation of the Cuban people by Castro.

One has to wonder what the response would have been should someone like Pat Robertson, Ann Coulter, or Pat Buchanan have come to speak here. There is a great deal of certainty that the University would have granted the requests of left-wing extremist groups to protest and disrupt the event, but it found it necessary to protect a despot. It leaves one to ponder, who is next? Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a terrorist who participated in the abduction and torture of Americans in Iran?

In today’s Venezuela I would be arrested, imprisoned, and probably beaten by Chavez and his henchmen for this article. To President Bollinger I ask, is this the type of person you want speaking to our students and faculty and to the world? Is this the legacy you want to leave here at Columbia? Is this the kind of institution we have become, a haven for despots, dictators and criminals? For shame!

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