President Bollinger’s opening remarks to President Ahmadinejad were an embarrassment. As a member of the Class of 1976, Columbia College, and the Graduate School of Business Administration, Class of 1979, I would have expected more from the President of Columbia University. At Columbia, I learned important lessons such as respect for the individual and the value of real dialogue. Treating people with disrespect is not the path to understanding nor academic freedom, regardless of the incredible things they may believe. Calling a democratically elected President, even in a carefully nuance phrase, “a petty and cruel dictator” was inappropriate. It gave expression, as evidenced by the headlines in the New York Post and Daily News, to hate mongering. Columbia University should not support the jingoist elements in American society who thrive on spreading fear and the use of violence to solve issues.
President Bollinger should apologize to President Ahmadinejad and the Iranian people for his inappropriate and rude remarks.