August 30, 2007 -- For Columbia President Lee Bollinger, the experience had to have been painful.
Standing before a large, unruly audience, he could hardly get a word in. As the catcalls rendered his remarks near inaudible, the Ivy League prez glared at the crowd.
He was displeased.
But at least he got to speak. And nobody rushed up and shoved him.
Yes, those attending the Aug. 15 Community Board 9 hearing, where Bollinger spoke on behalf of a proposed campus expansion, were angry and rude.
Then again, they see their neighborhood at risk.
But despite the protestors' best efforts, Bollinger completed his speech - and escaped without physical assault.
Not everyone's so lucky.
At least, not on Bollinger's campus, where last fall Minutemen Project founder Jim Gilchrist was invited to speak by the College Republicans - and came to regret it.
Gilchrist had barely begun when a mob of Columbia students and some outsiders rushed the stage, shouting, unfurling huge banners and then, astonishingly, physically attacking the speaker.
Unlike the rancor before Community Board 9, this hecklers' veto worked: The event came to an end virtually before it had begun.
It was a disgrace. But what happened next was even worse.
That is to say, nothing happened.
Nothing that matters, anyway.
Yes, there was an "investigation," lasting the better part of the fall semester.
But, in the end, all the aspiring brown- shirts got from Columbia administrators was a stern "Don't Do It Again some of the junior fascists cited that outcome as personal vindication.
Which, clearly, it was.
Bollinger - ironically, a First Amendment scholar - still has had nothing of consequence to say about the episode.
And Gilchrist, it should not surprise, has yet to be invited back to finish his speech.
It goes without saying that invited speakers in public forums don't deserve to be shouted down.
Not controversial figures like Gilchrist.
And not even university presidents.
But judging from the look on Bollinger's face during his own ordeal - a brief video of the ruckus is available here - it's possible he gets it now.
But, alas, not probable.