Nikita Lalwani recently reported in this paper (1) that Yale ranked fifth in a list of worst colleges for free speech. The Greg Lukianoff article in the Huffington Post (2) referenced in Lalwani’s story described the University as “a repeat offender against freedom of expression in recent years.”

Wednesday evening I attended the conversation between former-General Stanley McChrystal and author Greg Mortenson, an event hosted by the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. The two discussed leadership. Friendly greeters, backed by a cadre of police officers, handed out Mortenson’s new book as students flashed IDs and filed into seats. The conversation kicked off with a movie about one of Mortenson’s recent school-building projects in Afghanistan. At curtain, McChrystal lobbed a few softballs – “What makes a good leader?” and “Could you tell a bit about your background, and how it prepared you to be a leader?” – and then the floor opened to questions from the audience.

The extended event glimmered with rare moments of sincerity and emotion. One Yalie from Kabul offered Mortenson choked thanks from a written statement. “I had to write it, because I knew I would be nervous,” she said. And McChrystal described the unceasing pressure of leadership, a kind of pressure that can only be overcome with the help of others. But through most of the conversation I was reminded of Lalwani’s reference to Lukianoff. The 90 minutes felt canned and orchestrated, like a public relations gala. The curated topic provided space for neither tough questions nor debate. A man who commanded all of Afghanistan – a country in which we are currently engaged in a war that has dragged on longer than Vietnam – perhaps only once or twice mentioned the word “war.”

I left with a free book, quite dissatisfied.