The International Reporting (and Life) Adventures of Vivian Salama

Ahmedinejad to Columbia

Posted by vmsalama on September 25, 2007

I usually post my articles on this site but this time, I’d like to discuss here is what is NOT addressed in either my Newsweek article or my Washington Post op-ed.  As a graduate student at Columbia University, my emotions were running high on Monday just like those of my fellow students.  Personally, I was extremely excited to have Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad speak on campus – not because I agree with his views, because in most cases, I don’t – but because I was proud to be a part of such a rare forum where ideas – good and bad – chould be exchanged in an intellectual environment, free from the political clutter that often prevents us from getting a well-rounded scope on international affairs.  I love a good debate and I cannot remember the last time anyone sparked the kind of multilateral discussion that resulted from Ahmedinejad’s visit to New York this week.


My issue, however, is not with Ahmedinejad because in reality, he holds very little power in Iran and so his rhetoric is more so a case of “sticks and stones” and less so a real threat.  My gripe – and I know many of my fellow Columbians share this view – is with President Lee Bollinger’s introduction to Ahmedinejad.  Much of what he said was legitimate, I’ll give him that.  But if the plan was to verbally assault him, then why invite him at all?  I knew Bollinger would raise several points in his speech with regard to Ahmedinejad’s comments regarding the Holocaust and wiping Israel off the map, but his introduction was more a listed indictment than an introduction.  Many students gasped in horror when Bollinger stormed off the stage without so much as acknowledging Ahmedinejad, his guest. 

I am not defending Ahmedinejad in any way because the man certainly has his faults.  What I am saying is, Columbia took a stand against those who try to suppress academic discourse.  By inviting the Iranian leader, the university put politics aside for a moment giving students the opportunity to formulate their own impressions based on Ahmedinejad’s words and NOT by information which has been filtered through the government, intelligence or the media.  Instead, politics reigned in an ugly form.  I think the introductory remarks insulted the intelligence of students by assuming they are unable to approach Ahmedinejad’s speech objectively and formulate their own opinions.

Click here to see some photos from Ahmedinejad’s visit to Columbia.


One Response to “Ahmedinejad to Columbia”

  1. bchboy1 said

    I agree..letting him speak proved the point..he is nuts!

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