Harvard Debates Bloomberg as Commencement Speaker

March 13, 2014

Some Harvard University students are objecting to the choice of Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, as commencement speaker. The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, is divided about the choice, and so ran an editorial endorsing it, but also a dissent criticizing the selection. The dissent cited Bloomberg's support for "stop and frisk" policing that has been criticized as racially based by many black and Latino New Yorkers. "Had Bloomberg been asked to the Institute of Politics, we would have urged our classmates to engage in a respectful dialogue with the former mayor, and to challenge him on his record. But commencement is not a night at the JFK Jr. Forum — every graduate should feel celebrated and included. We realize that no speaker will be acceptable to every single graduate, but to extend an invitation to someone who alienates entire segments of the student body is ill-advised and worthy of condemnation," said the dissent.

The main editorial, however, said that there is value in having a controversial speaker. "Michael Bloomberg is not a dull choice, and that reality is part of what makes him somebody worth listening to," the editorial said. "Whether or not his policies were mistaken or even offensive to some of the student body, he can and will deliver a thought-provoking commencement address. It would be far more troubling if the University chose someone who would deliver a milquetoast speech, devoid of both substance and controversy."

The debate at Harvard comes as some students and faculty members at Rutgers University are questioning the selection of Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, as the speaker there.


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