Letter: Speaker issue is not free speech


To the editor of THE EAGLE:

Steve Melito ("Intolerance in higher education," Eagle editorial page, June 14) misses the point and fails to understand the motives of those who have raised objections to recent recipients of honorary degrees.

Faculty and "campus leaders" do not "seek to silence those with whom they disagree," as Mr. Melito states. What they do object to is the payment of very large sums of money to commencement speakers (in Condoleezza Rice’s case, $35,000), and the awarding of an honorary doctorate degree, a distinction signifying that this particular individual represents and upholds the values the university.

Speakers of all stripes and political views are frequently invited to university campuses -- often on a panel with those of opposing viewpoints. A commencement address offers no opportunity for students to hear diverse views, but only those of the speaker.

I have no objection to the choice of Michael Bloomberg as a commencement speaker at Williams College, a decision apparently arrived at through a democratic and transparent process. But to associate those who do object with those who seek to "silence the free flow of ideas" is both disingenuous and, as an argument, unconvincing.



The writer is Professor Emeritus of International Studies at Adelphi University, Garden City, New York.


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