Just a day after it was announced that Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project, could be returning to speak at Columbia University, the Columbia Political Union voted against having him back when it learned that there would be no counter-point speaker. Gilchrist's 2006 appearance at Columbia sparked protests that got out of hand as demonstrators rushed the stage where he was speaking and participants got physical. Eight students were disciplined following the altercation.
News of Gilchrist's return was reported Monday after Columbia professor David Eisenbach issued a tentative invitation to the anti-illegal immigration group's founder and received an acceptance. A formal invitation wasn't to be issued until after a vote by the sponsoring body, the Columbia Political Union. The Columbia Spectator writes that confusion marred the whole process of planning the event. The CPU was apparently interested in re-inviting Gilchrist with the hope of having Karina Garcia, the leader of the group who charged the stage last year, also speak at the event. According to Garcia, she told Eisenbach she was not interested in speaking with Gilchrist, but the CPU voted to invite him with the understanding that she would be participating. When it became clear that Garcia would not be speaking, the CPU decided to rescind its invitation to Gilchrist.
On Monday, the campus International Socialist Organization president said he would help organize a large and disruptive protest if Gilchrist came back to Morningside Heights. Even the director of operations for the Columbia University College Republicans personally hoped that Gilchrist would not return, saying that it was fun a year ago, but she didn't need to relive the event.
Eisenbach was disappointed with the decision, telling the AP, "The health of a free society and a university depends on the free expression of ideas. Only through a free expression of ideas can we reach the truth." But perhaps Gilchrist himself was the most disappointed. The Post reports his reaction: "It would have been a great revelation for the student body and it would have redeemed the Columbia University student body's reputation of being comprised of a Paleolithic - a caveman - mentality."
(Dueling headlines from The New York Sun)