Well, Maybe I'll Bring Popcorn
The Big Brotherish posters aside, I'm quite in favor of John Ashcroft's visit. Controversial speakers who come to Columbia give us a lot to think about. The Waldron/Yoo torture debate held at the law school last year, for instance, may have raised some passions, but it remains one of the most informative and entertaining of my law school experiences.
Of course, this is Columbia, and we wouldn't be an elite Ivy League university without students wanting to show that they have both an unalienable right to free speech and a complete lack of self-restraint. The Columbia Federalist Society is hosting, so it's no surprise that the formal etiquette is impeccable. In an email today, they invited the student body to come up with questions to ask Ashcroft. But before that email arrived, this bit of hate mail popped into my inbox, forwarded by the ever-obliging student services mailing list:
JOHN ASHCROFT COMING TO COLUMBIA
NOVEMBER 30, 2005
If you are against TORTURE, BIGOTRY, SEXISM, CLASISM [sic], AMERICAN THEOCRACY*, and just plain mean people who can’t sing-
JOIN the Campus –Wide “Ashcroft Welcoming Committee”
Meetings are scheduled for:
Monday, 11/21- 10:00 PM in Lerner 555 – BRING POSTER IDEAS- quotes, stats, the works
Monday, 11/28- 10:00 PM in Lerner 555
Tuesday, 11/29- 6:00 PM in Lerner 501
This, of course, is what constitutes a "welcome" at the Ivy League. It's quite possible that the protestors are spending more time getting ready to mock Mr. Ashcroft than his hosts have given to marketing him. Considering the accusations in the email, I sincerely hope that they can hold the tune of "Kumbaya," or whatever the kids are chanting in unison these days. Wasn't loud and lousy singing outside Noriega's compound considered a form of torture?
Let me make it clear: there's nothing wrong with objecting to Mr. Ashcroft's ideas, and I've hardly considered him the most persuasive Republican spokesman. Nonetheless, he is the guest of three student societies sanctioned by the university to which the emailer belongs. To send out an email like the one above shows a stunning lack of class, tact, and comity with one's fellow students. To protest a guest of one's university not only suggests that one has no respect for one's fellows, but that one feels no duty to actually welcome a guest of the university to which one belongs. Sadly, such behavior doesn't reflect badly upon Mr. Ashcroft but upon us.
: What if you happen to be against the overuse of ALL CAPS SHOUTING IN EMAILS?