During his Harvard University commencement address today, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg delivered a sharp critique of American universities' efforts, or lack thereof, to protect personal freedoms and promote a climate of tolerance throughout their campuses.
Bloomberg, a member of the Independence Party of New York, seemed especially disturbed by how strong an influence politics had recently had on universities' decisions to invite, or uninvite, a few commencement speakers to their graduation ceremonies.
Speaking to the group of alumni and new graduates, Bloomberg said that this spring, the chosen commencement speakers at institutions including Brandeis University, Haverford College, Rutgers University and Smith College either declined to deliver an address or had their offers rescinded because of strong protests from students and senior faculty members.
"In each of these cases, liberals silenced a voice," Bloomberg said.
"Today, on many college campuses, it is liberals trying to repress conservative ideas," he said. "And that is probably nowhere more true than it is here in the Ivy League."
Pointing to the most recent presidential race, Bloomberg cited Federal Election Commission data, which said that 96 percent of campaign donations from Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama.
"That statistic should give us some pause--and I say that as someone who endorsed Mr. Obama for reelection," Bloomberg said. "When 96 percent 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."
Bloomberg asserted that a university is not truly great if it is politically homogeneous.
If this trend continues at universities, the upshot, Bloomberg said, is that society will begin to function like Washington, D.C. There, every single major issue of our time is debated by one side trying to shout the other out, he said.
Throughout the speech, Bloomberg didn't mince words. "If students graduate with ears and minds closed, the university has failed both the students and society," he said.
Ending on a lighter note, he told graduates to take the rest of the day to celebrate their accomplishments. "And tomorrow get back to work making our world and our country freer for everyone," he said.