The selection of former New York City mayor and anti-Big Gulp crusader Michael Bloomberg as Harvard University’s commencement speaker has sharply divided the school’s student body.
The school’s main student paper, The Harvard Crimson, decided to reflect this split by publishing two columns that expressed the conflicting opinions of the school’s student body.
The negative column stated that the selection of the former NYC mayor “exacerbates the sense of social exclusion” supposedly found on campus. They zeroed in on Bloomberg’s strong support of the controversial police tactic of “stop and frisk,” which the students felt unfairly targeted racial minorities.
“Under the Bloomberg administration, ‘stop-and-frisk’ became common practice at the New York City Police Department.,” the authors wrote. “The policy, which allows officers to stop, question, and search pedestrians if there is ‘reasonable’ suspicion that a crime is being committed, took on a distinctly racial hue: In a city of eight million people, the practice was employed 685,724 times in 2011, and almost 90 percent of those detained were black or Hispanic.”
Bloomberg’s scheduled appearance has also prompted criticisms from Harvard’s Muslim and African-American student populations, who both feel that his selection is “disturbing” and take issue with the policies, such as “stop and frisk” and the monitoring of mosques, that he oversaw as mayor of America’s largest city.
“Harvard’s bringing him to deliver the commencement address could be taken as either an endorsement of this policy or as simple ignorance thereof,” Harvard College Black Men’s Forum President Rodriguez Roberts told The Crimson. “To be honest, I’m not quite sure which is worse.”
None of the criticism centered on his strong support of gun control measures, nor his desire to rid New York City of excessively large containers of high-fructose corn syrup.
But the main editorial of The Crimson came out in favor of the decision to host Bloomberg and saw it as a better alternative than having a “dull choice” speak.
“Michael Bloomberg is not a dull choice, and that reality is part of what makes him somebody worth listening to,” the editorial stated. “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.”
They even praised him for supporting “health initiatives, environmental programs, and public education.”
This controversy comes on the heels of the faculty and student paper of Rutgers University protesting the school’s decision to have former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice speak at their respective commencement address.