On Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia University, an event that provoked strong feelings from many in the academic and journalistic communities. The main controversy was whether it was appropriate for Columbia to invite Ahmadinejad – the leader of a country purported to be part of an “axis of evil” who has expressed contentious views regarding Israel and the Holocaust – to speak on its campus.

Despite the barbed and discourteous introduction by Columbia University President Lee Bollinger and Ahmadinejad’s persistent avoidance of directly responding to tough questions, this was an important event from the perspective of academia and international relations. It provided a window into the mindset of a major figure on the world stage – and a forum to challenge him. More broadly, it was an opportunity for free exchange of ideas and information, an exercise in which there are no losers.

It is this spirit of intellectual openness that colleges and universities have an obligation to foster, and UR is no exception. Our keynote speaker for Meliora Weekend will be Colin Powell, another man who has been extremely influential on the world stage; however, some have expressed displeasure at his selection for that very reason – he was chosen by the Bush Administration to make the case to the United Nations for the invasion of Iraq.

Of course, the UN ultimately did not find the evidence Powell presented on behalf of the Administration – which turned out to be largely erroneous – convincing enough to support pre-emptive military action, which was carried out unilaterally by the Department of Defense in 2003. After Powell’s 2005 resignation from the State Department, it has become increasingly clear that he frequently dissented from the administration’s foreign policy strategies.

But whatever mistakes or missed opportunities there have been (according to a 2005 ABC interview, he considers the UN speech a painful blot on his record), Powell is a man whose service and experience more than merit an audience at UR. An open forum in which we have the opportunity to learn from him – and yes, challenge him – can only be to our mutual benefit.



RASA’s struggles highlight troublesome new club formation process

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Notes by Nadia: What’s wrong with being a fan?

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Report backing financial aid for summer courses endorsed by SA

SA’s Academic Affairs Committee concluded that there is an “urgent need” for UR to expand financial support for students taking…