Is Michael Bloomberg Persona Non Grata at Harvard?

March 17, 2014

By Avi Snyder at National Review Online

Another day, another college, another effort to protest a commencement speaker.

The Harvard Crimson reports that some students have expressed opposition to Harvard’s selection of former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg as this year’s commencement speaker. At issue is Bloomberg’s vigorous support for stop-and-frisk policing policies.

Harvard College Black Men’s Forum President Rodriguez S. Roberts ’15 also raised questions about the selection of the former mayor.

“Harvard’s bringing him to deliver the commencement address could be taken as either an endorsement of this policy or as simple ignorance thereof,” Roberts wrote in an email. “To be honest, I’m not quite sure which is worse,” he said.

Mr. Roberts’ statement is, of course, utter tripe. Inviting a prominent public figure to speak at a graduation ceremony, even offering him an honorary degree, in no way indicates an endorsement of every policy with which that figure is associated. The invitation to Mayor Bloomberg is no more an endorsement of stop-and-frisk than it is an endorsement of banning large, sugary drinks. And it goes without saying that it is highly unlikely Mayor Bloomberg will touch on contentious political issues in his talk.

This is just the latest installment in what FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff calls “disinvitation season,” that lovely springtime ritual in which misguided students and professors express their vigorous opposition to hearing from anyone who holds views or pursues policies with which they disagree. It is bad enough when those ostensibly dedicated to academic freedom and the pursuit of truth shut their ears to anyone expressing an opposing idea. It is even worse to blacklist an individual because of his politics.

To its credit, Harvard is showing no signs that it will disinvite Bloomberg. We hope Harvard stands its ground and teaches its students a lesson in open-mindedness, tolerance, and academic freedom.

Schools: Harvard University Cases: Nationwide: Colleges Across the Country Disinvite Commencement Speakers