Columbia University functionaries are citing "academic standards" and planning "irregularities" for the last-minute cancelation of a panel on the rule of law in Turkey, but it seems more like a cave to the despot who now rules in Ankara.
That's how it also looks to at least some of the panelists, including Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations: "The only conclusion that anybody can really draw is that Columbia came under significant pressure from the Turkish government," he told Inside Higher Ed. "As someone who works on Turkey, I'm not surprised that the Turkish government tried to bring this pressure to bear. What I am surprised at is that Columbia said, 'OK.' "
Trouble started after Y. Alp Aslandogan was added to the panel. He's the president of the Alliance for Shared Values, a New York-based umbrella organization for the Hizmet movement — aka the "Gulenists" that tyrant Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames (with no evidence) for a 2016 coup attempt.
And Erdogan has lots of points to pressure the school: Columbia has a center in Istanbul and a Turkish studies center founded with a $10 million gift from the family of a Turkish businessman. Crossing the dictator could cut off the money spigot.
So much for Columbia's commitment to free and open speech.