Speaking to graduates at Harvard University on Thursday morning, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- no conservative he -- warned against the consequences of intolerance on college campuses. Not only did he warn those in attendance of falling prey to intolerance, but he warned against the growing disease that plagues college campuses; that is, the repression of conservative ideology.
It was a bombshell speech of sorts, considering this spring's spate of commencement speakers bowing out of their engagements thanks to vocal protests by left-wing student activist groups. But only two network morning shows bothered to mention Bloomberg’s remarks. CBS This Morning aired a sound bite, as did CNN’s New Day, which also devoted several minutes to discussing the speech with a panel of guests.
In an a rare but appropriate commencement address, the former mayor spoke powerfully of the side-effects of a one-sided presentation of ideologies on college campuses. Bloomberg spoke plainly about how liberalism seems to have taken over college academia; most notably, he pointed out, at Ivy League institutions.
Below is the portion of Bloomberg's address aimed at liberalism on college campuses. The portions in bold represent what CBS aired and underlined portions are what CNN aired:
We cannot deny others the rights and privileges that we demand for ourselves. And that is true in cities and it is no less true in universities where the forces of repression appear to be stronger now, I think, than at any time since the 1950s.
There is an idea floating around college campuses, including here at Harvard, I think, that scholar should be funded only if they’re work conforms to a particular view of justice. There’s a word for that idea; censorship and it is just a modern form of McCarthyism.
Think about the irony: In the 1950s, the right wing was attempting to repress left wing ideas. Today, on many college campuses, it is liberals trying to repress conservative ideas even as conservative faculty members are at risk of becoming an endangered species. And that is probably nowhere more true than it is here in the Ivy League. In the 2012 presidential race, according to Federal Election Commission data, 96% of all campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama. 96%. There was more disagreement among the old Soviet politburo than there is among Ivy League donors. And that statistic should give us some pause. I say it as someone who endorsed President Obama for reelection. Let me tell you something, neither party has a monopoly of truth or God on its side. When 96% of Ivy League donors prefer one candidate to another, you really have to wonder whether students are being exposed to the diversity of views that a great university should offer. Diversity of gender, ethnicity, and orientation is important, but a university cannot be great if its faculty is politically homogenous.
Great universities should not become predictably partisan. And a Liberal Arts education must not be an education in the art of liberalism. The role of universities is not to promote an ideology. It is to provide scholars and students with a neutral forum for researching and debating our issues without tipping the scale in one direction or repressing unpopular views.
If a university thinks twice before inviting a commencement speaker because of his or her politics, censorship and conformity, the mortal enemies of freedom win out.
A university's obligation is not to teach students what to think, but to teach students how to think. And that requires listening to the other side, weighing arguments without prejudicing them. And
determining if the other side actually made some fair points. If the faculty fails to do this, it is the responsibility of the administration and governing bodies to step in and make it a priority. If they do not - if students graduate with ears and minds closed, the university has failed both the students and society.