Friday, February 16, 2007

Response to Jimmy Carter oped

There has been a pretty vigorous response to an oped I, together with 10 of my Emory colleagues, placed in the Emory paper, The Wheel. I have done a number of interviews including with WABE, Atlanta's NPR station, and the AP.

In both cases -- and in yesterday's interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution -- the question that most animates reporters is "What do we want? Is there something which could be done to rectify the situation?"

In fact there is. Jimmy Carter could come to recognize and the Emory administration could help him to understand that his persistent refusal to face his critics leaves a major cloud hanging over his legacy. This is not the behavior of someone who thinks that he has done the right thing and who stands behind his claims.

He insisted on speaking at Emory. He pushed the administration to make the necessary arrangements for him to appear alone.

He should know, and -- if he does not know -- he should be told that this is not the way universities operate. I acknowledge that we often have speakers from only one side. But they are not former presidents, their books have not been the objects of such criticism, and their objective in writing them has not been, as it is for Carter, to promote discussion and dialogue.

Jimmy Carter can't have it both ways: to claim to be the great mediator and to fail to face his critics.

We stress open engagement, debate, and exchange of views, particularly when one side has been subjected to such withering criticism.

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