Columbia University

New York, NY: As a college-bound student, I have been looking at different universities’ approach to education. Is it innovative and unique? Is it motivating? Does it provoke students into deep thought – or perhaps even action? After much research, a particular university caught my attention, one that truly challenges students to think, question, and learn.

Columbia University, snug in the heart of ever-notorious and notable New York City, has long been hailed as one of America’s most prominent liberal universities.

Since its inception in 1754, Columbia has attracted worldwide attention. In the 1960s, it was known for its role in the anti-war movement and a campus-wide ban on the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

While visiting Columbia, I spoke with a third-year student who told me that this is certainly a “liberal campus.” He also told me that Columbia is “receptive to a number of speakers.” Without stating it explicitly, his meaning was apparent, for Columbia is infamous for hosting controversial figures.

In 2007, Columbia President Lee Bollinger invited Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to speak at the school. Ahmadinejad is controversial for his denial of the Holocaust, his public call for the destruction of Israel, his pursuit of nuclear technology, and his government’s imprisonment of ­journalists and scholars, including Columbia alumnus Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh. Bollinger’s act incited widespread media attention and criticism. He had wished merely to promote “robust debate” but instead roused half the world.

Though Columbia has a long history of pushing society’s conventions, it has defined itself as the university of a new, daring intellect. It is a “critical premise of freedom of speech” to be able to hold a forum that makes this debate possible, Bollinger has been noted as saying. “This is ­America at its best.”

Indeed, this is also education at its best.

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