Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ahmadinejad, big man on campus

The Iranian leader's visit to Columbia provoked outcry, support and a twist on free speech: "We're glad you're here -- so we can tell you you're an asshole."

By Alex Koppelman and Tracee Herbaugh

On an ordinary day Columbia University is something of an oasis, a relatively tranquil place where it is possible to forget for a moment the surrounding noise and chaos that is New York City. That held true on Monday, even as the national media turned its attention on the visit to campus of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and as loud demonstrations took place at the United Nations Building in midtown Manhattan and around Columbia itself.

There were makeshift signs, both against and in support of Ahmadinejad's appearance, scattered all over the campus area where a simulcast of his appearance was broadcast. Many students wore black shirts distributed for protesting the event. The front contained a quote from Edmund Burke, the 18th-century Irish conservative: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." The back read, "Stop Ahmadinejad's EVIL, Columbia Students United AGAINST AHMADINEJAD."

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