On November 14, the administration of Columbia University displayed its contempt for the rights of freedom of assembly and speech as well as the sanctity of contracts. A radical group calling itself the Columbia Coalition for Affirmative Action announced that it would demonstrate against a conference being held on the Columbia University campus by Accuracy in Academia, an organization that Reed Irvine heads. The campus newspaper, The Spectator, ran an editorial urging “all members of the Columbia community” to join in this protest.
The Spectator was especially upset by the fact that Ward Connerly was going to address the conference. Connerly, who is black, has succeeded in getting initiatives passed in both California and Washington state that enact into state law language in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that bars the states from discriminating in employment, education or contracting on the basis of race, national origin and gender. The Spectator said that the appearance of Connerly “provides one of the best reasons for protest this campus has seen in a long time.”
Ward Connerly spoke at the opening banquet. A noisy group came to vent their feelings in front of the building, but there was no disruption. One of the security guards Accuracy in Academia hired at Columbia’s insistence said after the meeting that the protestors had posed no problem for them. A photo taken from overhead shows that they numbered about 150.
The Spectator has reported that University administrators decided late that night “to effectively ban the second day of the conference from campus.” The chief of security called at midnight to say that admission would be limited to persons with Columbia ID’s. This decision, which violated the contract with Accuracy in Academia, was approved by Columbia’s president, George Rupp. It meant that the Columbia students who wanted to disrupt the conference would be admitted, and those who supported the conference and wanted to discuss the hostility to conservative ideas on American college campuses would be barred if they did not have a Columbia ID card.
Asked to explain the logic behind turning the conference over to the hecklers, one Columbia official finally confessed that he could think of “no cogent explanation for it.” The university spokesman said they made the decision because they thought 450 demonstrators would show up the next day and matters would get out of control.
Dan Flynn, the executive director of Accuracy in Academia, moved the conference off campus to a small park across the street. The scheduled speeches were delivered as planned for two hours. Then no more than 85 protestors appeared and tried to drown out author Dinesh D’Souza’s talk. After a lunch break, the New York City police moved them across the street, and the conference proceeded without further disruption. The behavior of the Columbia administration, the campus newspaper and a handful of its students underscored the theme of the conference-that academia is hostile to conservative ideas and hypocritical in professing dedication to freedom of speech and assembly. Accuracy in Academia is giving serious consideration to suing the University.