Trustees | Intellectual Diversity

Ivy League snubs Bush team for commencements

WASHINGTON TIMES   |  May 11, 2001 by Elianna Marziani

It’s the season when the nation’s top colleges vie for administration leaders to grace their campuses and deliver commencement addresses, but in a strange twist this year, no one from the Bush team is scheduled to appear at the prestigious Ivy League schools.

It’s not clear why this is so, but some conservatives are incensed. As it turns out, the nation’s military academies will host what normally are the most coveted commencement speakers.

President Bush will speak May 25 at the U.S. Naval Academy. Vice President Richard B. Cheney will speak May 30 at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz will speak June 2 at West Point and Chief of Staff Andrew Card will speak June 18 to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

There are tentative plans to have Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta speak at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, will speak at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va.

Sen. McCain, whose Bush-team membership has at times been questioned, will also appear at the University of Pennsylvania.

Both Harvard University and Williams College have secured Robert E. Rubin, secretary of the Treasury during the second Clinton administration, as their commencement speaker. Brown University will have former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright speak at its ceremonies.

Yale has invited Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, to speak on the day before commencement. It’s rumored that President Bush, a Yale grad, might speak at his alma mater’s commencement.

Thor Halvorssen of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education in Philadelphia says he, for one, is not surprised at the lack of administration speakers at the Ivies.

“Elite liberal schools have a very tangentious definition of what constitutes diversity, and ideological diversity is certainly not a part of that,” he said. “Their use of the word ‘diversity’ is a very perverse notion of pluralism.”

A 1996 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Halvorssen said he thinks it’s rare that a dissenting, non-liberal voice is heard on campus. “It is comical if not tragic to see,” he said. “I’d like people to have exposure to all sorts of ideas.”

Patrick Reilly of the Cardinal Newman Society in Falls Church, which monitors graduation speakers in Catholic schools, is less contentious. He says the Ivy League schools may have locked in this year’s speakers before the current administration`s officials were announced.

“The real test will be next year to see if they go to Clinton administration throwbacks, or if they are willing to accept more conservative speakers.”

Terry Hartley, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, a group that represents about 2,000 private and public college presidents, called it a “very atypical year” for graduation speakers. He, too, said the new administration was pulled together too late for elite colleges to snag its officials.

“If you are a major university, you want to line up a speaker six months in advance,” he said. “I don’t think this year’s commencement speakers at the Ivies are indication of a `vast left-wing conspiracy’ any more than having administration speakers at the military academies is a `vast right-wing conspiracy.’ Come back and look next year, and you’ll have a very different picture.”

Jerry Martin of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni disagrees.

“It’s the same story every year,” he said. “[Elite schools] seem to have ‘Republicans not welcome here’ signs around campus.”

“It just seems to be obvious that someone isn’t well educated if they have heard only one side of the issue. I thought [a college’s] job was education, not indoctrination. [Students] need to be exposed to the best representatives of both points of view.”


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