Opinion | Letters to the Editor

An Open Letter to President Bollinger

"The petition below, endorsed by an estimated 600 Columbia affiliates,
was presented to President Bollinger as part of an effort to express
widespread concern on his introductory remarks. You may read the petition here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/bollingerletter/

Dear President Bollinger:

We, the undersigned students of the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) at Columbia University, express our deep concern over the nature of your recent introductory remarks addressing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As members of the school that hosted this event, we believe that you disgraced the spirit of academic exchange and diplomacy that our institution promotes. The World Leaders Forum, created to enable the Columbia community to "examine global challenges and explore cultural perspectives," is an important platform for students to engage with divergent and pressing worldviews. Your remarks limited our ability to
fully benefit from this opportunity. It is particularly distressing that your inflammatory words were delivered at a time when dialogue with Iran is of the utmost importance in an effort to forestall war.

In the past Columbia has welcomed many world leaders of all political stripes while maintaining proper decorum. But by introducing Columbia's invited guest, the president of a sovereign nation, with disparaging and invidious language, you have done a disservice to our academic community.

As you stressed in countless announcements preceding the event, Columbia is a university committed to free speech and academic freedom. President Bollinger, when you speak in the name of Columbia University at an event sponsored by our school, we expect you to speak on all of our behalf. It is our concern that your disrespectful
language was delivered primarily to appease certain individuals and groups at the expense of vigorous intellectual discourse.

We feel our values were grossly misrepresented and that SIPA's reputation as a training ground for public servants has been tarnished. As future diplomats we will undoubtedly be tasked with repairing damage that remarks like yours cause.

We the undersigned represent people of many countries, creeds and political views. Despite our differences, we all agree that you must explain and make amends for your unfortunate actions. We call on you to hold a forum to explain these actions to our SIPA community and account for your statements.

We look forward to working with you to bring a dignified resolution to this issue.

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