Statement of Academic Community sign now

30 March 2005

Dear President Bollinger,

In the interest of restoring a fully-functional and inclusive sense of academic community, we, the undersigned students, faculty, and staff of Columbia University, are resolute in our conviction that the university must work quickly to rebuild a spirit of community by fairly and decisively resolving the polarized controversy surrounding Columbia University and the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures.

To this end, we submit the following petition based on a set of principles that we feel have the potential to bring us together as a community rather than to divide us. In this way, our goal is to effect reconciliation of Columbias shipwrecked community of scholars and students.

First, we accept the principle that we should not pass judgment on either the faculty members or the students who are involved in this conflict. The university has been entrusted to settle this issue, and it should do so by showing the utmost fairness to both parties. Yet because the conflict remains ongoing and unsettled, the university has allowed it to degenerate into crass, polarized reductions of faculty and students, who have been cast basely as mere stand-ins for either ideological manipulation or the political machinations of external groups. Without wanting to foreclose consideration of all possible scenarios in this investigation, we believe that it is far more productive to dispense with binary characterizations in order to prevent ourselves from falling into a mob-mentality of manifestos and agendas stripped of any real concern for each other or for the soundness and future of our community.

Second, we take as self-evident both the right of students to learn and the right of faculty to teach in an environment of respect and tolerance, irrespective of how controversial the subject matter may be, or how strongly an individual may hold to his or her political beliefs. We fully and conscientiously oppose the belief that innovative and unsettling ideas need ever be incompatible with a spirit of respect, mutual endeavor, open exchange, or intellectual engagement at its very best. Such a compromise would constitute neither teaching nor learning, but a debasement of both. As individuals deeply concerned for the welfare of our collective community within the university, we affirm the values of mutual respect and tolerance both in and out of the classroom.

Third, out of fairness to all parties, and in the highest standards of academic inquiry and discussion, we flatly reject both a campaign to penalize and to persecute professors purely on the basis of their political views, and, equally detrimental to the ideals of a healthy university, one that seeks to dismiss, discredit, or silence the concerns of students. Neither of these untenable positions can satisfy the pursuit of both knowledge and understanding within the academy.

In sum, we ask that the university take every possible step to ensure that both faculty and students receive due consideration, and to bring this matter to a just and prompt resolution. Such a resolution will, we hope, return and strengthen our faith in the university as a place where communities of individuals - all individuals, students and faculty alike - are built, protected, and supported by a principle of togetherness, cooperation, and shared endeavor.

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Claude FlemingBy:
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President Lee Bollinger


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