New York college students were in a tiff over the presence of two prominent public figures on their campuses: Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts at Syracuse University and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at Columbia University. But those aren’t the first times people get huffy over public figures visiting universities.

Just this past week, over 2,600 Stanford students, faculty and alumni signed an online petition to remove former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s appointment to Stanford’s Hoover Institution.

Last May, protesters gathered outside our own Zellerbach Hall where former President and author Jimmy Carter spoke about finding peace in the Middle East.

And in September 2006, Columbia University rescinded their invitation to Ahmadinejad, citing logistical reasons for the cancellation. We guess uninviting someone twice is a taboo in the etiquette of Ivy League universities?

Political leaders around New York were quick to offer their disapproval of Columbia’s invitation, rejecting Ahmadinejad’s request to lay a wreath at the World Trade Center site and, in New York state Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s words, hoping that the citizens of New York would “make his time miserable.”

We bugged Yaman Salahi, an active member of the Berkeley blogging community on Middle Eastern affairs, for his opinion. He says of Ahmedinejad’s visit:

bq. … while he doesn’t represent everybody or control the country with an iron fist, or anything close to it, he does legally have a ‘right’ and legitimacy to be in his position. In shutting him out, we are effectively shutting out the country of Iran.

bq. … I think much of the hysteria surrounding his visit is based more on xenophobic stereotypes and rumors than it is on substantial facts or disagreements that people have about him. I’ve read several reports that indicate some of his statements have been mistranslated in order to make him sound crazy.

bq. The most questionable thing about him at this point, in my opinion, is the fact that he hosted a despicable Holocaust denial conference last year (actually I wrote about this when it happened). But then again he is not coming to Columbia to speak on the Holocaust.

Here are some different takes on Ahmadinejad’s visit, including the kind of long and boring “60 Minutes” interview where Ahmadinejad dodges questions like rhetorical bullets.

Salahi ultimately notes that American students are being offered the rare opportunity to academically challenge an important figure in our lives. And that’s a point the Clog can stand behind, no matter what side of the politics we’re on.

In light of protests, public statements and the aftermath, we want to know: What do you make of the situation? Is this just mass hysteria over nothing? Setting a dangerous precedent? A cruel setup? What, speaker, let’s go play Halo 3?

Image Source: David Shankbone
Listening to Controversy [Daily Cal]
Ahmadinejad, at Columbia, Parries and Puzzles [NY Times]
Telling it Like it Isn’t [Slate]
Differing Groups Rally at Talk [Daily Cal]
Iran Leader Denied Bid to Visit Ground Zero [NY Times]
Stanford students, faculty protest Rumsfeld’s Hoover appointment [SF Gate]
Ahmadinejad’s Dangerous Game [Slate]

calfootballfan said:
Sep 25, 2007 at 4:39 pm

I saw the CBS interview…60 minute reporters suck ass…he was so rude…

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