In September 2007 Iran’s President Ahmadinejad visited the Columbia University campus as part of his U.S. visit to the United Nations. Crowds formed and protesters gathered to discuss the visit, his speech and Columbia’s invitation. From praises for Columbia University for promoting freedom of speech, to being seen as supporting terrorists, the visit garnered international attention and support. Ahmadinejad’s visit was thoroughly covered in the New York Times and CNN provided input from students on their views of the visit, as you can see from this YouTube video.
This September another controversial leader visited and spoke at Columbia as part of a UN visit. This time it is Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia sharing his views on African Leadership. Many Ethiopian Americans, such as Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam of California State University, have asked Columbia to issue a statement clarifying and acknowledging the negative and horrific acts committed by the Ethiopian leader during his time in leadership. However, the coverage of the event and the overall criticism has not been close to the outcry during the Ahmadinejad visit. Why do we think that is? We visited the Columbia campus that day to get more information and views on Zenawi from those in attendance. Most of the crowd were of Ethiopian descent and very few of the protesters (supporters and opposition) wanted to be filmed.