University President Ignores Facts and His Own Life While Praising the Autonomy of Universities

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger weighed-in on the newspaper industry crisis in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Surprise, suprise—Bollinger trots out the college president model for fixing everything: Give 'em some government funding.

The prospect of newspapers becoming indebted to government, the very institution in greatest need of journalistic oversight, is troublesome, to say the least. Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch has written extensively against the idea of a journalism bailout, and responded to Bollinger's op-ed earlier today. I'll defer to those arguments against a bailout, as Bollinger's op-ed proceeds to make a glaringly false analogy deserving of its own response:

There are examples of other institutions in the U.S. where state support does not translate into official control. The most compelling are our public universities and our federal programs for dispensing billions of dollars annually for research. Those of us in public and private research universities care every bit as much about academic freedom as journalists care about a free press.

Yet—through a carefully designed system with peer review of grant-making, a strong culture of independence, and the protections afforded by the First Amendment—there have been strikingly few instances of government abuse.

That has to be a misprint—surely where Bollinger wrote "few" he actually meant "constant." The statement that few instances of government abuse occur in higher education is so absurdly false that only an Ivy League president could possibly believe it. Said abuses occur daily. They take the form of public university professors being fired, in spite of the First Amendment, for expressing their opinions, which happened at the University of Illinois just recently, and at countless other colleges, both public and private. They take the form of legacy admissions scandals, where college applicants who are relatives of government officials and other noteworthy people are given unmerited consideration (the most recent occurence of this was also at the University of Illinois). Go to The Chronicle of Higher Education here and browse the headlines: every other article highlights the tangled web of private/public/government intrigue and abuse in the nation's colleges without even trying to do so.

Bollinger, for his part, is no stranger to government abuse in higher education. As Columbia University's president, Bollinger conspired with New York's pseudo-public Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to use eminent domain to confiscate private property in a West Harlem neighborhood. Reason Associate Editor Damon W. Root wrote that there was "convincing and damning evidence of widespread collusion between the ESDC and Columbia University to violate both the letter and spirit of the law, as well as to create the very conditions that ESDC officials then used to justify their intervention on Columbia's behalf."

When it comes to universities, public vs. private is a tricky distinction. Private universities receive government funding. Public university presidents draw salaries from sitting on the boards of both private and public companies (Bollinger is a member of the boards of both the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the company that owns The Washington Post). But no reasonable person would conclude that this situation is relatively free of government abuse.

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  • Johnnybegood||

    Do we really need two posts on this?

  • ||

    Do we really even need to comment on this not necessary duplicate post?

  • .||

    No?

  • Tman||

    The most hilarious and indefensible aspect of Bollingers limousine-liberal screed was the inclusion of China's CCTV and Xinhua news as an example of an independent government subsidized news source.

    Again, that's China's CCTV and Xinhua news, as an example of an independent government subsidized news source.

    This guy is a PROFESSOR OF JOURNALISM?

    Good lord.

  • AC||

    No, he was the Dean of the UM Law school prior his post at Columbia.

  • x,y||

    President of the University. Oversaw the first stages of the affirmative action lawsuit.

  • cynical||

    "They take the form of public university professors being fired, in spite of the First Amendment, for expressing their opinions, which happened at the University of Illinois just recently, and at countless other colleges, both public and private."

    While professors at public schools might have some additional protections due to the First Amendment, I don't see evidence here that taking government money makes schools more likely to fire people who piss off the PC crowd -- that's a result of the power of liberal political correctness culture on campus, not congressmen and federal bureaucrats stepping into university affairs to push their own agenda (otherwise, we would see a purge of liberal professors and womyn's studies departments every time the GOP took hold of the reins of government). I'm sure assaults on academic freedom happen at fully or mostly privately funded schools all the time.

    "They take the form of legacy admissions scandals, where college applicants who are relatives of government officials and other noteworthy people are given unmerited consideration (the most recent occurence of this was also at the University of Illinois)."

    While the linked article supports your claim, legacy admissions in general aren't really a government abuse, even if the alumnus happens to be a government official -- is there any reason to think the same thing wouldn't happen if the university was fully privately funded or the alumnus was a celebrity or wealthy businessman?

    "As Columbia University's president, Bollinger conspired with New York's pseudo-public Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to use eminent domain to confiscate private property in a West Harlem neighborhood."

    Surely that's an example of a private institution using its influence to undermine the government's fidelity to the public interest, not the government using its influence to undermine the private institution's fidelity to its stated mission.

  • alan||

    I kind of agree that the corruption tends to extend from academia to the politicians instead of the other way.

    Academia invents rhetoric for oppressive means that the politicians incorporate to the degree that they find the rhetoric useful. It is one thing to expect bribes as that is the politicians nature, but to expect bribes under the guise that you are actually doing us a favor by extorting them? Only an academic could be wormy enough to come up with shit that insidious.

  • ||

    "Surely that's an example of a private institution using its influence to undermine the government's fidelity to the public interest, not the government using its influence to undermine the private institution's fidelity to its stated mission."

    I don't like either situation. The fact of the matter is that "private public partnerships" really just blur the lines between both sides, creating a horrible beast of a whole new kind.

    I think that everybody, no matter what they believe is interested in at least appearing truthful. Because of this fact, the internet is full of truth checkers constantly trying to hammer away at the other guy's argument creating a fairly accurate system in the aggregate. Arguing that we need a government subsidized press to create "real" honesty seems like a dubious assertion. If somebody lies long enough, they will eventually be found out, whether they are a private journalist or a publicly funded journalist.

  • Terr||

    Did I really need to read through this AGAIN?

  • hmm||

    Don't drive angry. Don't drive angry.

  • DanD||

    The WSJ commenters ripped Bollinger a new one. That was just brutal. Brutal, but deserved.

  • ||

    LOL, sounds like "Do as I say, not as I do" mentality! LOL

    JR
    www.privacy-tools.es.tc

  • Hans||

    Dieser Beitrag kritisiert die "anarcho-libertären" Theorien amerikanischer Herkunft, die für anarchisch liberale Gedanken werben (Murray Rothbard, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Randy Barnett). Wenn wir das libertäre Projekt ernsthaft untersuchen, so können wir daraus folgern, dass sein Reiz minimal ist, selbst, und vor allem, aus der Sicht der freiheitlichen Werte, auf die es basiert. Nach dem hervorheben des Fatums allen anarchischen Denkens, prüfen wir vier faktische Unzulänglichkeiten der anarcho-libertären Idee. Diese wären das Problem der anarcho-libertären Gesetzgebung und das absehbare Entstehen einer anti-liberalen Gesetzgebung, das Problem der rechtlichen Durchführbarkeit, das wahrscheinliche Wiederaufleben eines Staates, und der Schwund der Mindestgarantien gewährleistet durch eine Rechtsstaatlichkeit. Dann sehen wir zwei theoretische Hauptschwachpunkte : die anarcho-libertären Theorien des "natürlichen Rechts" und das Projekt eines "Systematisch Libertären Gesetzbuches" und, letztendlich, der Umgang der Anarcho-Libertären mit der entscheidenden politischen Frage: "Wer bestimmt die Regeln in der anarcho-libertären Ordnung?"

  • und Franz||

    So what you're saying is that Bollinger is not properly pumped, ja?

    Dass ist so recht

  • RandomGermanDude||

    Der Beitrag sagt nur welche Probleme es angeblich gibt aber zeigt nicht auf was diese Probleme tatsächlich sind und belegt mit Argumenten, dass es sie überhaupt gibt.

    Troll dich.

  • LarryA||

    But to people like Bollinger the problems you cite are features, not bugs.

  • Abdul||

    Said abuses occur daily

    May favorite is the Solomon amendment. Every year, universities send out letters that they're sorry, they would like to keep the horribly no-good homophobic military recruiters off the campus, but the Solomon amendment forces them to admit military recruiters. What choice do they have? Are they just supposed to turn down the money?

  • ||

    Bollinger neglects to mention that government funding has destroyed Academia's credibility as well as devalued its teaching and research. The universities are cheerleaders for government and ideological enemies of individualism. The idea that they are independent is a very sour joke.

    One would almost think that was Bollinger's intention in advocating government subsidy for journalism.

  • ||

    I'm a bit surprised that you didn't mention the official forms of government control of universities that comes with government funding.

    Statutes like the Title IX, the Solomon amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and a bunch of other laws threaten to withhold federal funding if universities don't comply with federal rules.

    The periodic amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965 create all kinds of grant and subsidy programs that are intended to get universities to start certain programs that they wouldn't otherwise start.

  • Spartacus||

    And that's just direct funding. There is a whole (probably larger) second tier of regulations that schools have to follow for its students to be eligible for federal financial aid (including loan guarantees). I know, the feds should get out of the student aid business, but as long as they are in it, universities cannot afford to drive away most of their students by refusing to follow the mandates tied to the support. If 70% of your students are receiving some sort of federal aid, turning them down is just not a realistic option.

  • ||

    Bollinger reigns at Coulumbia, where free speech is so vibrant that unpopular speakers are driven from the stage by physical force. Let him bring open debate and free speech to Columbia before he prescribes for society at large.

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