To the Editor:
In his recent column, Jesse Michels asserts that, in contrast to Columbia president Butler’s 1933 invitation of the Nazi ambassador Luther, a close encounter with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may serve an educational purpose. We disagree. Like the editorial board of the Spectator (“Reconsider S’il Vous Plait,” September 18) and the “Just Say No to Ahmadinejad” organization, we considered the students who accepted the invitation to dine with the dictator to have made an ethical, political, and intellectual mistake. Thus, while we were pleased to learn that the meeting of a delegation of students of the Columbia International Relations Council and Association (CIRCA) with Ahmadinejad did not take place, we are very disappointed that the delegation was disinvited rather than CIRCA withdrawing its acceptance. We are further chagrined that a delegation of students from the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) did participate in this dinner meeting and that the school’s administration failed to speak out about this matter.
Like the Spectator’s editorial board, we cherish academic freedom and freedom of association. However, freedom of association entails a responsibility to select worthy associates.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is responsible for ruthless murders in his country and in allied Syria and Sudan. He supports numerous terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah and Hamas. His regime has killed or imprisoned thousands of gays, women, students, faculty, journalists, and human rights advocates. It has financed and conducted terrorist attacks that resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians. Iran is officially designated under U.S. law as a state sponsor of terrorism. Ahmadinejad has repeatedly threatened to wipe Israel “off the map”; he is illegally pursuing the development of nuclear weapons with which to do so. As recently as a month ago, he denied the Holocaust.
Ahmadinejad’s dinner companions may have learned that he slurps his soup, eats his vegetables, or knows how to use a fork. But in so doing, they have not advanced any academic pursuits. They have merely stroked their egos and provided a semblance of legitimacy to a mass murderer and his evil regime.
Charles E. Exley Professor of Management, Graduate School of Business
Judith S. Jacobson
Associate Professor of Clinical Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health
Co-coordinators, Columbia Chapter, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East