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Columbia refuses to punish students for shouting down College Republicans speaker, won’t say why

Students of color and Muslims should be held to a lower standard, faculty say

Free speech is worthless at Columbia University, given its stunning decision to not charge anyone who disrupted a College Republicans event last month.

The Columbia Daily Spectator reports Thursday that Suzanne Goldberg, executive vice president for university life and rules administrator, decided to “informally resolve” the conduct-code complaints against the 19 or more students under investigation.

The unexplained Monday move, which also lifts a ban on attending (read: disrupting) College Republicans events, followed a faculty revolt that called the university investigation an “overreaction.”

Goldberg’s office claims she can’t share the justification for the closed investigations because of “a rule that prohibits the University from disclosing information about investigations and adjudications,” the Spectator reports.

Student protesters had continuously disrupted a Skype-delivered speech by Tommy Robinson, founder of the anti-Islam English Defence League. Black student activists cited the CRs’ invited speakers as a reason for the student government to defund and derecognize the group at a recent meeting.

MORE: Black student activists demand defunding of CRs: They ‘oppose our humanity’

Goldberg’s investigation apparently spooked would-be disruptors. The Spectator said Monday night’s CRs event featuring controversial Internet personality Mike Cernovich, a popularizer of the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory, featured quiet student protests inside the venue but “went on uninterrupted.”

More than 100 faculty, mostly in the humanities and social sciences, protested the Ivy League school’s investigation of the Robinson disruption, telling President Lee Bollinger in a letter that the protesters were victims:

Rather than protecting rights to protest and speech in a neutral manner, the administration seems committed to using “free speech principles” as an opportunity to prosecute students for their reasonable efforts to critically engage biased, exclusionary and anti-democratic speakers brought to campus. …

[The game plan of “opponents of the very idea of the university” is] to flood educational institutions with inflamatory [sic] speakers, and lure the university into issuing statements defending their right to speak, despite – or especially because – of their offensive ideas. It will then be left to students to protest the ideology of these speakers, at which point the university will prosecute the students for violating the institution’s rules of conduct.

School that spends $100 million more on diversity promotes ‘white supremacist agenda’

Appropriating the language of supporters of due process for students accused of sexual misconduct, the faculty said the students -a majority of which are “of color or Muslim” – had “undergone a kind of star chamber inquiry” and “administrative shaming.”

They quote Goldberg as asking students accused of disruption if they know “why we protect free speech on campus” and whether they talked or made “a noise” while Robinson was speaking:

She asked not one question about whether the speaker said something regarded by the audience as outrageous, false, objectionable, bigoted, inflammatory or discriminatory. She did not inquire whether any verbal reaction from the students was short or long in duration, was audible to the entire audience, was audible to the speaker, was reasonable under the circumstances, was frequent or just a “one-off,” whether the speaker interrupted audience members when they were speaking, or what was the general tone or format of the presentation. Context was irrelevant to the Rules Administrator’s “investigation.”

Because Robinson “deployed more tiki torch than natural light of reason” in his freewheeling address, the faculty say, students were apparently blameless for continually disrupting the CRs’ event.

Professors issued one set of standards for white students and another set for students of color and Muslims:

For these students, the obligation to confront Tommy Robinson and the College Republicans was personal and implicated their sense of belonging in this community. While the University was actively defending a kind of discursive green zone for white supremacists, xenophobes, Islamophobes, and misogynists, it fell to the students to respond to the bile and falsehoods spewed by the clientele invited to campus by peer student groups.

They claimed without evidence that their preferred students had endured “verbal and physical assaults of students” for their “peaceful protest” and that their posters were torn down, without any formal Columbia investigation.

The professors accused Columbia – which is spending an additional $100 million promoting diversity – of “being conscripted into a white supremacist agenda.”

Read the Spectator article and faculty protest letter.

MORE: Columbia to spend $100 million more on diversity

IMAGE: Lolostock/Shutterstock

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg spent several years as a technology policy reporter and editor for Warren Communications News in Washington, D.C., and guest host on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators.” Previously he led media and public relations at Seattle’s Discovery Institute, a free-market think tank. Greg is developing a Web series about a college newspaper, COPY, whose pilot episode was a semifinalist in the TV category for the Scriptapalooza competition in 2012. He graduated in 2001 with a B.A. from Seattle Pacific University, where he co-founded the alternative newspaper PUNCH and served as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Falcon.

Add to the Discussion

  • Frog Legs

    If you find the ideas so distasteful don’t listen to them. Nobody’s making you go to the talk.

    • richard40

      Yes, you certainly have a right to ask polite aggressive challenging questions (provided you are actually willing to let the speaker answer uninterrupted), even express polite objections, or walk out. But if you go so far that the speaker cant be heard by those who came there to actually listen, that is going way to far, and crosses the line from ordinary heckling, to fascist speech suppression heckling.

  • At it’s core, Liberalism is based on the perception that certain groups (think minorities and women) of people are less capable than others (white men and Jews). They act out their perceptions by only holding accountable those first seen as capable. This is why all Liberal policies are directed at the avoidance of accountability.

    • richard40

      Yes, designated victim groups have no responsibility for their conduct, because they cant help it, only their hurt feelings matter, logic or normal standards of behavior have nothing to do with it, only designated responsible groups are responsible for their conduct, and expected to behave properly. It is the bigotry of low expectations, with full accountability for us, but never for them.

  • TexCassidy

    The guy in the Columbia Polo Shirt should practice what these campus fascists practice: get in their face, punch back twice as hard, shout them down. The Columbia guy should have spat in the Black Lives Matter whore’s honky face and doubled shot the finger back. What a wrecked whore that self loathing white privileged honky is. She is privileged to give her opinion, but those who disagree with her aren’t. What a hypocritical, damaged POS.

    • richard40

      Wrong, lawless totalitarian behavior on the part of a leftist, does not justify lawless totalitarian behavior from us.

  • This is the U that supported “Mattress Girl.”

  • RickHapp

    Sounds like a good opportunity for a lawsuit.

  • MarkJ

    Columbia University: Exhibit A why Congress should defund all–ALL–aid to higher education. “Nothing focuses a campus administrator’s mind so wonderfully as an impending funding cut.”

    And I’m speaking as someone who spent 21 years in higher ed administration at a major university.

  • Ted G

    LOL these are actually professors…? They should have the credentials revoked for this kind of BS

  • Grandma

    Prospective employers take note – Columbia teachers expect and encourage their Muslim and people of color students to erupt in uncontrollable rage and disruptive behaviour whenever they hear something they don’t like. Think carefully before you let one of them on your premises!

  • richard40

    “She asked not one question about whether the speaker said something regarded by the audience as outrageous, false, objectionable, bigoted, inflammatory or discriminatory. She did not inquire whether any verbal reaction from the students was short or long in duration, was audible to the entire audience, was audible to the speaker, was reasonable under the circumstances, was frequent or just a “one-off,” whether the speaker interrupted audience members when they were speaking, or what was the general tone or format of the presentation. Context was irrelevant to the Rules Administrator’s “investigation.””
    This is the entire key quote from the article, but it needs to be broken down line by line to be properly addressed, since gross falsehood is mixed right in with actual relative questions.

    “She asked not one question about whether the speaker said something regarded by the audience as outrageous, false, objectionable, bigoted, inflammatory or discriminatory. ”
    That question should not be asked, since it should net be relevant. Even truly objectionable speech has a right to be heard without being drowned out by aggressive hecklers.

    “She did not inquire whether any verbal reaction from the students was short or long in duration, was audible to the entire audience, was audible to the speaker,”
    This question actually should ahve been asked. If the heckling was minor enough that the speaker could still finish the speech without constant inteerruptions, then it is not truly abusive heckling”

    ” was reasonable under the circumstances,”
    What circumestances, if they are talking about the provacativeness of the speaker, of how much the hecklers thought they were ofended, again that does not justify overly aggressive heckling.

    ” was frequent or just a “one-off,”
    OK, that is a relative question to ask, but not these relevant questions are constantly mixed up with non relevant questions, creating a false sense of moral equivalency.

    “whether the speaker interrupted audience members when they were speaking, or what was the general tone or format of the presentation.”
    Again a bogus point. If a questioner is filibustering and long winded, the speaker has every right to interrupt them and silence them, since it is the speakers event, not the hecklers.

    ” Context was irrelevant to the Rules Administrator’s “investigation.””
    Not sure what they mean by context, certainly whether the hecklers were offended by what the pseaker was saying had no relevance to whether they had a right to shut them down with aggressive heckling.