Open Letter to President Bellinger
Professor Theodore Vestal | September 22, 2010



Dear President Bollinger:

I am a constitutional scholar who has admired your writing about First Amendment freedoms. I am also an Ethiopianist who must take strong exception to your posting an ill-advised encomium of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia prior to his speaking at the Columbia University World Leaders Forum on 22 September 2010.

I was pleased that the words of praise for the Ethiopian leader provided by the embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia have been taken off the World Leaders Forum website, but the damage has been done. By publishing such editorial comment even for a short while, you have violated your own self-proclaimed neutrality of sticking to “basic factual information” in such activities.

I hope the party responsible for demeaning Columbia University’s good name as a bastion of free speech will be appropriately disciplined and that you will have the courage to make such action known to the public. The only way you can redeem the damaged reputation of the World Leaders Forum is by publicly making known the shortcomings of Prime Minister Meles and his government in your introductory remarks -- a refutation similar to what you did in introducing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejab of Iran in 2007.

The deficits of democracy and abuse of human rights by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Front are too well known and documented for you to miss. If you need additional information about the totalitarian practices of the Ethiopian leader you honor, please see my book, Ethiopia: A Post-Cold War African State (Praeger).

With best wishes,

Theodore M. Vestal, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Political Science
Oklahoma State University
Tulsa, OK 74114-5322
http://fp.okstate.edu/vestal/


From: Professor Jagdish Bhagwati
University Professor, Economics and Law
Columbia University

I understand the anguish of Professor Nagash over the Columbia University invitation to PM Zenawi of Ethiopia who is allegedly a man deserving of condemnation, especially as regards academic freedom and independence in his country (especially since Columbia is a university).

I understand also that the objection is not to the invitation per se but particularly regarding the encomiums extended to this PM on the Presidential website (without President Bollinger even knowing about its contents, I am sure).

Columbia has correctly decided to be a global university, like some others, like Yale. But this must mean bringing foreign universities and faculties and students, and our own, into mutually rewarding contact: i.e. through teaching and high-quality research, the twin pillars of universities’ functioning through centuries.

But as soon as you dilute these objectives by giving unaccountable power and funds to “entrepreneurs” whose objective is to use the University to advance their own agendas, you get into situations like the one you object to. It seems probable that the President’s office was merely reproducing uncritically the rubbish that was supplied by one of these Columbia entrepreneurs whose objective is to ingratiate himself with influential African leaders regardless of their democratic and human-rights record, to get PR and “goodies” for themselves at African summits, at the UN where these leaders have a vote, etc.

In short, the rot begins with these people, NOT with President Bollinger who is merely a victim of these “unacademic” Professors on campus who have gotten close to him, I am afraid.

In short, the real issues are different from what you worry about. We need a dialogue on how Universities are being “captured” by such entrepreneurs who should NOT be in universities, or at least in prominent positions at Universities. And we need full transparency on their activities and University funding (which is often diverted in effect to them at the expense of scholarly research and teaching.

Warm good wishes,

Professor Bhagwati
www.columbia.edu/~jb38


Joseph E.Stiglitz
University Professor
Uris Hall, Room 814 Columbia University
3022 Broadway, New York,NY 10027
Phone :+ 1[212] 854-1481
Email: jes 322@columbia.edu

Dear Professor Stiglitz,

I came to know you via:1] reading your notion of economics on “Global Institutions and Economic Policy” in George Argyrous and Frank Stiwell, at the University of the Rmit, School of Global studies, Social Science and planning, Melbourne 2]your recent interview with Leah, ABC TV, Late Line program.

Based on a news report which appeared on www.ethiomedia.com, you have invited Mr Melese Zenawi as a keynote speaker to launch “The World and Africa” series organized by your committee on ‘Global Thought [CGE] at Columbia."

I am not going to reiterate how a tyrant Melese Zenawi is ,for that many other writers who wrote prior to me, provided to you enough facts about Zenawi`s atrocious acts against humanity.yet,I would like to forward a highlight of how notorious Mr Melese is with a few sentences: he is a ‘thanatoplitician’ or a ‘merciless executioner!.’ A swift and unconditional striker against any power threaten suspects. He is a contemporary Machiavelli political ideal. His resemblances are: Stalin ,Pinochi, Chenchesco, Idiamen etc.. AS racist as Hitler, against the other ethnic communities.

Dear Stiglitz, you know that knowledge is power and you know that knowledge serves for the well beings or for the destructions of society. Let me outline a few examples:1]Michel Foucauult on the biopolitics of power: ”its fostering of biological existences for the citizens of a particular state, propagation of birth, the level of good health, an increase of life expectances, shaping a moral human being, empowering, prospering ,transforming etc. society” are the productive and the bright sides of biopolitics. 2]causing wholesale slaughter such as: the “Holocaust, atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, death penalty, racism, waging war etc.. Exclusion, denigration and disempowerment of society” are the counterproductive and the darker sides of the biopolitics of power. 3] Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno on the ‘Enlightenment Project’ : that the Enlightenment view of ‘rationality’ had the effect of knowledge turning into commodity, that knowledge, truth and wisdom once connected, now disconnected, that knowledge and ethics became disconnected etc. 4] According to Zygmunt Bauman, ’modernism’ is the long history of militant stance/pose among intellectuals which expressed to be able to legislate for the whole of society. Meaning promised for the creation of upright society. To the contrary, the arrogance of intellectual “legislators” implicated in many of the “horrors of modernity, including the Holocaust” [Bauman].

Dear Stiglitz, which one of the above is your position? Knowledge power to ‘empower society’ outlined in number one or knowledge power to ‘destroy society’, outlined in number two, three and four. As I am one of those sceptical persons, I am reserved from condemning you, because I do not know where you will be standing on this issue. You might have invited Mr Zenawi to tell him his: brutality, inhumanness, blood thirstiness; to humiliate him, make him little, to explain to him that he doesn’t deserve to be PM Etc...To judge your conscience and your intellectual principle, I will be patiently waiting for that day, for 22 September 2010.

Sincerely,

Tatek Menji
Public officer,
[For] Solidarity Committee for Ethiopian Political Prisoners [SOCEPP-Australia
Email:tatek1@bigpond.com


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