- The Washington Times - Monday, June 3, 2013

The left talks a lot about diversity and academic freedom, but it’s rarely practiced. With rare exceptions, the ideological spectrum of the commencement speakers sending graduates out into the real world ranges from far left to even further left. There’s an unwelcome mat in front of the ivory tower for Republicans and conservatives.

That’s the conclusion of the American Enterprise Institute’s Kevin Hassett, who reviewed the 2012 and 2013 graduation-event speakers at the top 100 universities and top 50 liberal arts colleges, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. By examining political campaign contributions and party affiliation, speakers were categorized as either liberal or conservative. For 2013, with the season still unfolding at the time of his recent Los Angeles Times op-ed column on the topic, Mr. Hassett had identified the political leanings of 69 speakers. “[N]o current or former Republican public official is scheduled to speak at the top 50 colleges, and only four will address the top 100 universities,” Mr. Hassett wrote. “Again, there are no conservatives scheduled to speak in the Ivy League.”

“Factoring in campaign contributions and public endorsements,” he added, “liberals outnumber conservatives by about 6 to 1.” Furthermore, the Republicans who were invited to speak were typically the squishy, aisle-crossing varieties.

The findings of the Young America’s Foundation’s 20th annual Commencement Speakers Survey were only slightly less lopsided. Using a similar methodology, it identified 62 liberal speakers, but only 17 conservative lecturers, with the latter generally relegated to smaller, less prestigious schools. Among the liberal speakers: Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Democrat. Meanwhile, Dr. Ben Carson, a world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeon, was squeezed out as speaker at Johns Hopkins University because he came out of the closet as a conservative.

This goes to show that for the left, tolerance is a one-way street. Throughout academia, “diversity” may be esteemed the ultimate value. In practice, it’s a faux diversity that excludes the academic difference that matters most: diversity of thought. The lack of true political diversity at the commencement lectern follows the same disturbing pattern of ideological imbalance found in collegiate faculties. It’s an intolerance that seeps into the student body. When college Republican clubs invite conservatives such as Ann Coulter and Karl Rove to speak at their events, left-wing hecklers often try to shout down the opposing thought with rude demonstrations.

It’s not like there’s a shortage of high-profile intellectual firepower and career achievement on the right, where it’s easy to identify brilliant economists, titans of industry, and even one or two Hollywood stars. Students deserve to be exposed to more than just the monochromatic views of liberal luminaries chosen because they’re not going to provoke any thought different from what they heard in the classroom. It’s time to challenge liberal academics to practice what they preach and challenge them to invite a conservative today.

The Washington Times

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