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Pruning the Ivy
Bloomberg Rips into Campus Left at Harvard Commencement

Michael Bloomberg excoriated the cloistered campus left in his commencement speech at Harvard University on Thursday. He reminded them that free speech is not merely a legal right, but a philosophical necessity for any free society, and proceeded to condemn both the politicization of academic work and the recent boycotts of commencement speakers. From an adapted version of the speech:

There is an idea floating around college campuses — including here at Harvard — that scholars should be funded only if their work conforms to a particular view of justice. There’s a word for that idea: censorship. And it is just a modern-day form of McCarthyism. […]

This spring, it has been disturbing to see a number of college commencement speakers withdraw, or have their invitations rescinded, after protests from students and — to me, shockingly — from senior faculty and administrators who should know better.

The former Mayor of New York went on to note that 96% of the Ivy League faculties contributed to Barack Obama in the last elections. When the crowd began to clap, he continued, “there was more disagreement among the old Soviet Politburo than there is among Ivy League donors.”

Bloomberg later returns to form, warning the academy not to become like Washington, where politicians try to “repress” each others’ views. Which policies in particular were subject to repression? Namely those he (and his audience) supported, while conservatives successfully opposed: gun-control measures and large federal investments in climate change research.

Watch for yourself:

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  • wigwag

    It was a good speech, but it wasn’t hard hitting enough. Bloomberg mostly gave Harvard itself a pass and he congratulated Harvard’s lame brained President, Drew Gilpin Faust for protecting the ability to promote diverse views on campus. That’s a joke.

    Perhaps Bloomberg forgot, or maybe he was just to polite to mention it, but the only reason Faust is President in the first place is that Harvard’s previous President, Larry Summers, was fired for having the temerity to suggest the possibility in a speech that the brains of men and women might differ biologically, thus conferring upon men and women different innate abilities.

    Despite the fact that Summers statement is as verifiably true as, for example, climate change, the Harvard faculty was outraged and demanded Summers’ head, which the Harvard Trustees obligingly served up on a silver platter. That’s the only reason that Faust, who Bloomberg praises generously, has her job.

    The arts and sciences faculties of America’s prestigious universities are exactly what Bloomberg implied they are, mini versions of Soviet-era Polit bureaus.

    • ShadrachSmith

      Bloomberg got the gig by dangling a $100 million contribution to Harvard’s Capital Fund. I don’t know if he actually gave any money 🙂

      • Corlyss

        Well, if he had to pay to say something I doubt he believes and doubt he practiced in his own administration (where was the push-back against the insane soft drinks rule?), I’d have to conclude he was a very foolish and self-indulgent man.

    • rheddles

      While I agree, I won’t truly take him seriously until he calls on alumni to withhold donations until the situation is rectified.

  • ShadrachSmith

    I posted this on the Harvard Crimson story about Bloomberg’s speech:

    • Corlyss

      Nice! How’d you do that, technically speaking?

      • ShadrachSmith

        Save the image as a JPG to your downloads file. Click on the little rectangle in the bottom left of the posting box. That should open your downloads file and you select the picture you want.

        • Corlyss

          Oh! Is that what that’s for . . . !

    • bigfire

      Actually, even Barack himself have different view.

  • Anthony

    Former Mayor Bloomberg’s commencement speech affirms institutional culture and still implicitly purveys sanction of dominant values despite cautioning graduates to be more receptive… (a definite function of educational systems); the worst forms of tyranny are those so subtle , so deeply ingrained, so thoroughly controlling as not even to be consciously experienced sans left or right, blue or red, republican or democrat, conservative or liberal (whatever categories inclined by devotees).

    An aside to politburo comment above, the analogy may yet hold for a many state and local legislative arrangements in this wide United States.

  • wigwag

    While I am sure Mayor Bloomberg was unaware of it, Harvard has made a habit of restricting the free speech rights of its faculty with the full acquiescence of Drew Gilpin Faust. A perfect example is the 2011 firing of Professor Subramanian Swami from Harvard’s Economics Department.

    Professor Swami was a fixture teaching in Harvard’s summer program for many years. A well known and respected economist, Swami was also a President of India’s right wing Janata Party which merged with India’s BJP in 2013. Swami has also served as an economic advisor to the newly elected Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

    In 2011, in the wake of the Mumbai Massacre (planned in part by the Pakistani Security Services), Swami published an op-ed in India’s “Daily News and Analysis.” The article was viewed by some as anti-Muslim.

    When the Harvard faculty got wind of the contents of Swami’s op-ed piece, a number of them went ballistic and they demanded that Swami, who was not tenured because he taught in the Summer Program, be fired. At first, Harvard defended Swami’s free speech right; unfortunately that didn’t last long. It was at that point that Harvard Professor Diana Eck joined the fray.

    Eck, a Professor of Comparative Religion at Harvard was a well respected scholar and a prominent advocate for homosexual rights. Eck is also the wife of a Harvard Chaplain, the Revered Dorothy A. Austin. Despite the fact that her own marriage would be illegal in every Muslim majority nation in the world, and would, in many of those nations, result in imprisonment or even a death sentence, Eck lobbied for Swami’s dismissal based on the lie that Swami had incited violence against Muslims.

    Eck and several other faculty members wrote a letter to the Dean of the Summer Program saying,

    “Harvard should review its appointment procedures” by holding public figures to a special standard, by eschewing appointments of people whose reputation … undermines Harvard’s own commitment to pluralism and civic equality and by privileging appointments that enhance, rather than detract from, the reputation of the university.”

    The weak-kneed Harvard administrators eventually succumbed to faculty pressure and Swami’s courses mysteriously disappeared from the Summer Catalogue. That’s what happens when you put the lunatics in charge of the asylum.

    More on the facts of the case can be found here,

    I wouldn’t worry too much about Subramanian Swami though. According to news reports out of India, he is being considered for several positions in Narendra Modi’s cabinet. He’s been mentioned most prominently as India’s next Minister for Minority Affairs.

    • Corlyss

      Slightly OT, but I’d wager that everyone of those twits in the Harvard Economics Dept. as well as the School of Government went into a Progressive death swoon when India began showing incontrovertible positive results from it’s (more or less) free market reforms.

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