President Bollinger and Columbia’s Faculty Cabal

by Jerry Gordon (Oct. 2007)


University of Columbia President Bollinger certainly blundered by giving an internationally televised soapbox to Iran’s President Ahmadinejad during the latter’s fractious visit to New York for the recent U.N. General Assembly meetings, but the fact of the matter is, the Iranian President had been invited to speak by Columbia’s School of International Public Affairs, not by Bollinger himself.

During the event, Mr. Bollinger, in classic prosecutorial fashion, aggressively challenged the Iranian president before an audience of students, faculty and invited media at the Roone Arledge Auditorium in Morningside Heights. He abruptly called Mr. Ahmadinejad a “petty and cruel dictator.” He laid out in a trenchant brief his reasons for berating the Iranian President: the latter’s public calls for the destruction of Israel, funding Middle East terrorism, persecuting scholars and journalists, devaluing women, killing homosexuals under Sharia law, holding conferences to deny the Holocaust and fighting a proxy war against American forces in Iraq. Mr. Bollinger then trivialized Ahmadinejad by telling him that he lacked the “intellectual courage” to offer real answers to these questions.

Ahmadinejad bobbed and weaved in rebuttal to this assault with outrageous comments. He told Columbia and the international TV audience about Sharia’s “human rights” for women, the non-existence of gays in Iran (they kill them when they catch them), Holocaust denial “research,” 9/11 denial, and even joked about Iran’s nuclear weapons development.

Ahmadinejad hammered in his remarks calling for a “referendum” in the Middle East to effectively ‘erase’ the Jewish state of Israel.  There was no riposte offered by Bollinger, who for example, could have called for a referendum for Iranians to depose the hated Mullahs of the Islamic Republic. After all more than 50% of Iranians are not ethnic Persians and are oppressed by the black turbaned Mullahs.

Bollinger thought his aggressive challenge of Ahmadinejad was a victory for “free speech.”

The New York Post headline “U da Man!” applauded Bollinger’s “boffo” aggressive attack on Ahmadinejad to provoke and challenge him (as did the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal).  The unintended consequence of Bollinger’s contrived media event was that Ahmadinejad played it for maximum effect in the Middle East and home consumption.  Ahmadinejad was also applauded and cheered by a claque of anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian student and faculty supporters among the 600 packed inside the auditorium, while others booed and jeered his more outrageous comments. All this while 25,000 protested his presence at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza near the UN Headquarters and hundreds protested outside the College Gates at 116th Street and Broadway.

The Columbia event was a clear demonstration of the clash of U.S. “civil marketplace of ideas” with the canon of Mahdist Sharia. Witness the absurdity of prayers offered by Ahmadinejad for the re-emergence of the “12th hidden Imam” and conversion of the audience.

In a New York Times City Room blog  interview with Bollinger following the Columbia event he noted:

I believe very strongly that this is free speech at its best. This is free speech. It’s not simply allowing someone to speak. It is how the discussion or the debate or the dialogue goes.

The statements I made had nothing to do with responding to those objections. This was my effort to state as fully and deeply as I could my sense of what this man has stood for and has done.

Very important to state this: I did not extend the invitation to him. This arose out of faculty and from the dean of the school of international and public affairs, a school within Columbia dedicated to training people in doing international affairs, doing research on it. They invited him and I incorporated it into the world leaders forum so it could be open to the university generally, but it was not my invitation.


The Cabal That Boxed in Bollinger at Columbia.

What lies behind Bollinger’s dilemma is “academic freedom” manipulated by a minority of faculty at Columbia who are anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian and pro-Islamist Iranian regime advocates. They succeeded in providing a platform for a radical Islamist terrorist leader, Iran’s Ahmadinejad. This is a cautionary tale of how a minority of the Columbia faculty from the School of International Public Affairs (SIPA) Middle East Studies program boxed Bollinger into this event.

This elite university President was sandbagged in the Ahmadinejad PR coup by a cabal of Islamist Iranian regime apologists at Columbia’s, School of International Public Affairs (SIPA): Middle East History Professor Richard Bulliet, Dr. Gary Sick of the Gulf 2000 Project and acting Dean John H. Coatsworth of SIPA.

Coatsworth said he would have invited Hitler to campus as long as the man who engineered the Holocaust would “engage in a debate.”

Coatsworth had a precedent. Long term Columbia President Nicholas Murray Butler, a Nobel Laureate, had invited Herr Hitler, the Nazi leader of Germany to the Morningside campus in 1933.

When Dean Coatsworth’s appointment was announced, I wrote of his incredible participation in an anti-Israel episode while at the University of Chicago in the 1980’s.

Coatsworth had accomplices in the cabal at SIPA consisting of pro-Islamist faculty with close ties to the Islamic Republic.

After former SIPA Dean Lisa Anderson was rebuffed last year by Bollinger, these pro-Islamic Republic faculty members were waiting for another opportunity which occurred courtesy of a request from the Iranian mission to the UN. The Iranian UN Mission head reached out to these friends at SIPA, notably Bulliet and Sick. Sick you may recall was on former President Carter’s National Security Council where he was responsible for Gulf Affairs. He assisted in negotiating the release of the U.S. Embassy hostages in Tehran seized in 1979. Ahmadinejad, a young Revolutionary Guard council member participated in that Embassy takeover. Some believe that Dr. Sick may have been the ‘eminence grise’ behind Coatsworth’s invitation to Ahmadinejad. Note this comment from an article by Iranian human rights advocates Mohammad Parvin and Hassan Daioleslam:


In 1997, Dr. Gary Sick worked intensely with Hossein Alikhani, an Iranian closely related to Iran‘s ruling mullahs, to found the “Center for World Dialogue”.  Sick is a founding board member in this organization.  Alikhani is a felon who in 1992 pled guilty to charges of violating anti-terrorist sanctions and spent some time in US federal prisons.


Professor Bulliet, who likes to fashion himself as an ‘Islamochristian’ has other views on the Middle East, according to the New York Sun,

….his views … favor the Palestinian cause and … support for the revolution that brought the mullahs to power in Iran in 1979.

The New York Sun noted that in December, 2006:

Mr. Bulliet argued in favor of providing him [Ahmadinejad] a platform. Mr. Bulliet said he attended a breakfast meeting with the Iranian and found him to be a “very reasonable speaker, a very effective debater.”


There are students in SIPA who feel very strongly that President

Bollinger didn’t teach an enlightening lesson in diplomacy, commented Bulliet.


Sick had this comment on the Gulf 2000 blog:


Mr. Bollinger’s opening speech “was pitched in a deliberately insulting tone, descending almost to the level of schoolyard taunts. (I hope students did not take away the lesson that this is how international politics should be conducted.)”


According to Sick, Ahmadinejad emerged unscathed:

Ahmadinejad gave mostly his usual exposition. He did make several points that have been made before but are always ignored or lost in the noise: (1) The way Israel is to be “wiped off the map” is by a referendum in Palestine, not a nuclear holocaust; and (2) Iran is not interested in, and is not producing, nuclear weapons.

Indeed it was his “usual exposition,” which makes Bollinger’s lack of preparation particularly inexcusable.

Kenneth Timmerman, veteran Iran dissident watcher, has raised questions regarding Bulliet, Sick and the SIPA Gulf 2000 project in his FrontPage Magazine piece, “Hitler’s Muslim Nephew Comes to New York

Timmerman noted:

Sick’s “Gulf 2000” Project, created in the early 1990s and fueled by Exxon-Mobil, George Soros and the Ford Foundation, among others, focused from the start on “engaging” Tehran. When Rafsanjani was president, Sick and his crowd promoted Rafsanjani as the great turbaned hope who would make Iran safe for U.S. business.

Gary Sick conceals his lobbying activity behind a cloak of cuteness, claiming that access to his website, emails, and electronic library “is limited to scholars and analysts with a professional interest in an association with the Persian Gulf region.” Critics and hostile reporters, stay away.

Columbia Faculty Critics and How the SIPA Cabal Could Do This

Columbia Law School Dean David Schizer took a valued stand against Ahmadinejad’s appearance at Columbia:

Therefore, my personal opinion is that he should not be invited to speak. Mr. Ahmadinejad is a reprehensible and dangerous figure who presides over a repressive regime, is responsible for the death of American soldiers, denies the Holocaust, and calls for the destruction of Israel. It would be deeply regrettable if some misread this invitation as lending prestige or legitimacy to his views.

Former Chairman of  President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors, R. Glen Hubbard now Dean of  the Columbia Graduate School of Business, had this comment in a ‘Dear Students and Colleagues’ notice issued of the day of the Ahmadinejad event:


The University’s decision to invite Mr. Ahmadinejad to speak on campus and to engage in a dialogue with our students and faculty has polarized our community. Some would argue that a University should be a place of intellectual freedom and open debate, but others including me argue that Mr. Ahmadinejad, who is responsible for the death of American soldiers, denies the Holocaust, and calls for the destruction of Israel, has proven himself incapable of engaging in a true and honest academic discussion.


On the blog of Columbia Law School’s  Vice Dean and Constitutional Law Professor Michael R. Dorf was a comment on how the trap of academic freedom was used by the SIPA cabal of Dean Coatsworth, Professor Richard Bulliet, and Dr. Gary Sick to set up Bollinger for Ahmadinejad’s Columbia appearance.


At the same time, reading between the lines, I find hints that were it his call to make, Bollinger would not have invited Ahmadinejad. He says: “we must respect and defend the rights of our schools, our deans and our faculty to create programming for academic purposes.” Translation: Coatsworth invited this guy, and our internal organization gives deans an absolute right to decide whom to invite to speak at their schools and departments.

One can certainly question whether a university ought to have a rule that the central administration unequivocally backs deans of particular units on decisions of this sort. One can, that is, argue that the dean of a department or school is not, in that capacity, entitled to the same sort of academic freedom as an individual professor. But I doubt that this ‘out’ would have been available to Bollinger even if he wanted to take it. Either Coatsworth or Bulliet could easily have argued that he was acting in his capacity as faculty member in inviting Ahmadinejad.

A former university provost commented to me, “This goes on all the time in academia.”


How Ahmadinejad Played Columbia’s Bollinger in the Islamic Ummah

Columbia gave the Iranian President a major university platform to address, not us here in the West, but the Muslim ummah and his hapless, oppressed Iranian citizens back home.

My colleague at American Congress for Truth, Brigitte Gabriel, put out a news release on the conclusion of a successful 72 hour petition drive that delivered over 10,000 signatories along with a stirring statement to President Bollinger objecting to Ahmadinejad speaking at Columbia.

Here is how the Columbia Ahmadinejad event was played in the Iranian Press:


Despite entire US media objections, negative propagation and hue and cry in recent days over IRI President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s scheduled address at Columbia University, he gave his lecture and answered students’ questions here on Monday afternoon.

Before President Ahmadinejad’s address, Colombia University Chancellor in a brief address told the audience that they would have the chance to hear Iran‘s stands as the Iranian President would put them forth.

He said that the Iranians are a peace loving nation, they hate war, and all types of aggression.

Referring to the technological achievements of the Iranian nation in the course of recent years, the president considered them as a sign for the Iranians’ resolute will for achieving sustainable development and rapid advancement.

The audience on repeated occasion applauded Ahmadinejad when he touched on international crises. At the end of his address President Ahmadinejad answered the students’ questions on such issues as Israel, Palestine, Iran‘s nuclear program, the status of women in Iran and a number of other matters.


Abu Mosaab a spokesman for Islamic Jihad, the Syrian and Iranian-backed terror group in Gaza, had this assessment in a WorldNetDaily report about “Iran’s power” on display at Columbia:

This invitation proves that when Muslims and Arabs come from a position of power to the West they receive more respect and consideration to their causes and to their conditions and to their insisting on their sovereignty” The fact that one of the American universities invited the Iranian president to raise whether the Holocaust happened proves that in the American people and leadership there is a hidden will to raise a serious discussion about these Zionists lies and propaganda.

Walid Phares, Senior Fellow of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy, commented on  the cable TV news program FoxandFriends the morning after the Columbia event that Ahmadinejad was applauded as if on cue all across the Islamic world as a hero for playing victim to Bollinger’s bullying remarks. Phares also noted that if Bollinger wanted to really provide a challenge, he might have had a panel of Iranian dissidents question him closely about his outrageous remarks.

Ken Timmerman whom I spoke with following the event had similar observations, to wit, “Why did we need to provide Ahmadinejad with a forum at a major prestigious American institution like Columbia, when everyone knows what Ahmadinejad is all about.” 


Ahmadinejad’s Disingenuous Invitation to Bollinger

Ahmadinejad invited everyone to come to another staged event at a university in Iran. But we doubt that Bollinger and anyone at Columbia will accept this invitation, save perhaps for the SIPA cabal. A letter from seven Iranian university chancellors to President Bollinger contained a ringing denunciation of his brief against Ahmadinejad filled with ten provocative propagandistic questions. 

The Bollinger-Ahmadinejad Event Score

As someone commented, the score for the Columbia Ahmadinejad event was, “Bollinger: 0 and Ahmadinejad: 1.” Credit that to the stealth team of Dean Coatsworth, Professor Bulliet and Dr. Sick at SIPA who pushed Bollinger into this box in the name of “free speech” only to provide a platform for a radical Iranian Islamist, President Ahmadinejad.

Jerry Gordon is a Member of the Board of American Congress for Truth and an alumnus of the Columbia University Graduate School of Business.


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