A week after Columbia University termed itself a stronghold of free speech for hosting the Iranian dictator, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a new documentary about censorship on college campuses claims that Columbia administrators demanded content review of all footage shot on its property in an effort to stifle an unflattering representation of the university.
"Indoctrinate-U," which premiered at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., last Friday, claims that America's colleges and universities bill themselves as bastions of reasoned debate even while enforcing political conformity by silencing viewpoints that they do not consider politically correct.
In deleted scenes posted on the Web site for the documentary, the director of the film, Evan Mahoney, recorded his dealings with administrators regarding the rules for filming at Columbia.
"The way I was treated was something out of an East German playbook," Mr. Mahoney said during an interview yesterday, explaining the footage. "The university said there had to be a handler with me at all times. They wanted to have final content control. After I filmed with one of their handlers, I wouldn't be allowed to release anything publicly unless they approved it. They said the amount of money to pay was dependent on what our point of view was."
In footage posted on the film's Web site, Mr. Maloney shows a Columbia administrator, filmed only from the neck down, saying that the content of the film needed to be approved so that the university was portrayed in "the best possible light." He tells Mr. Mahoney that filming on campus costs $1,500 an hour.
A Columbia spokesman, Robert Hornsby, said the university does not perform content reviews of any footage filmed on campus. The employee who appears in the documentary no longer manages the film permits, and only Hollywood production companies pay the rate of $1,500 an hour to shoot on campus, he said.
Mr. Mahoney said he chose not to comply with the university's rules. One scene in which he asks students to identify Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, or a Columbia professor as the source of an anti-Semitic description of Israeli Jews was cut from the film but now appears online. In the extra footage, students express shock when they are informed that a chaired professor of Iranian Studies at Columbia, Hamid Dabashi, wrote of Israeli Jews that "the way they talk, walk, the way they greet each other, there is a vulgarity of character that is bone-deep and structural to the skeletal vertebrae of its culture."
Correction from December 10, 2007:
Evan Maloney is the spelling of the name of the director of the documentary "Indoctrinate-U." His name was misspelled in an article on page 3 of the October 2 Sun.