The head of the New York State Republican Party accused Columbia University president Lee Bollinger of taking a veiled swipe at President Trump in a welcome back email message sent to students to start the fall semester.
Toward the end of the Sept. 4 statement, Bollinger, a registered Democrat according to Board of Election records, emphasizes that the tax-exempt university doesn’t take sides in elections or political controversies.
But Bollinger then lets it rip.
“I cannot close without expressing a larger concern about the wellbeing of America’s constitutional democracy,” he said.
“I have said many times over the past several years that, while the University takes no position on political issues, no matter how serious or even grave, a university cannot survive in a society that does not take seriously the basic elements of civic life—respect for truth, respect for reason as a means to truth, and the embrace of a foundational principle of human equality.
“In those, we have as much at stake as anyone and can, indeed must, devote our resources to their preservation. So, one priority we have as an institution is to assist students with voting, no matter where they are located in the United States or beyond, and you will be hearing more about this issue in the coming weeks.”
State GOP chairman NIck Langworthy said Bollinger’s statement was a slickly worded dog whistle attack aimed at Trump — using lines that partisan Democrats often use claiming the president repeatedly lies or disregards the truth.
“For a so-called top university, this is a poor attempt at trying to veil an attack against the President,” Langworthy said. “Sadly, it’s just another example of the indoctrination and group think that is rotting our higher education systems from the inside out.”
Bollinger declined requests for comment about GOP criticism of his statement to students.
Columbia has provided a welcoming mat for autocratic and anti-democratic figures to speak on campus — including the Jew-hating former president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Bollinger did slam Ahmadinejad as a “petty and cruel dictator” during the 2007 event.
Colleges and universities have to be careful to steer clear of politics to preserve their special tax-exempt status.
The US Senate has investigated universities in the past for among other things, financial arrangements involving former top White House officials.
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