Columbia’s Commitment to Our Foreign-Born Students and Visiting Scholars

September 03, 2019

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

I do not usually circulate within the Columbia community things that I have written, but I am doing so in this instance because I know many around campus—faculty, students, and the administration—are alarmed by recent reports relating to the subject of this particular piece, now published in The Washington Post.  

As I note, the FBI has been encouraging university faculty and administrators to develop protocols to monitor foreign-born students and visiting scholars, with a focus on those who are ethnically Chinese. To be sure, their concerns about unlawful technology transfers, especially in sensitive disciplines relating to national security, are to be taken very seriously. 

But universities cannot start monitoring their own people. That is not who we are. 

At Columbia, we are fortunate that scholars, researchers, and students from more than 150 countries choose to come here to work and study. The atmosphere of dynamism and openness to which they contribute has made American institutions of higher learning the envy of the world. We should be doing more, not less, to attract and retain them.

I am confident that Columbia can thrive as both a law-abiding institution and also a beacon of intellectual freedom and free expression.


Lee C. Bollinger