To the Editor:
The visit to Columbia University by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a theater of the absurd. The eloquent and on-target attack on the Iranian president by Lee C. Bollinger, the president of Columbia, lacked the impact that similar words would have had when courageously voiced by Iranian academics in Iran, where they would face imprisonment.
Moreover, Columbia's Middle East studies faculty invited the wrong guy! It is well known that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei runs Iran, not Mr. Ahmadinejad, who is given more credibility at Columbia University than in his own country.
In repeated e-mail discussions I had with Mr. Bollinger and other administrators, they justified inviting Mr. Ahmadinejad to speak at our campus because he would be engaged in "debate" and asked hard questions. Yet Mr. Bollinger admitted at the conclusion of his remarks that he did not expect Mr. Ahmadinejad to answer any of his "hard" questions.
Columbia's Middle East studies faculty owes it to the students to invite more credible representatives of Iranian culture and politics. In my field of biomedical sciences, a scholar of such low repute would not be invited to speak at Columbia University. This theater of the absurd was staged by a tiny minority of faculty whose political agenda supersedes the academic standards that Columbia University should stand for.
Andrew R. Marks, M.D.
New York, Sept. 25, 2007
The writer is professor and chairman, department of physiology and cellular biophysics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.