Our Opinion: Williams’ litmus test
It is disappointing that Williams College faculty and students have joined the political correctness movement sweeping campuses by protesting the honorary degree to be awarded Sunday to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Colleges should be the last place, not the first, to cancel speakers or protest honorees based on the cherry-picking of an aspect of their careers that fails a litmus test.
The faculty members and students opposing the degree are distressed by the mayor’s support of the New York City Police Department’s "Stop-Question-and-Frisk" policy on the grounds that it encouraged ethnic profiling. That wasn’t a good program, but supporting it is not all that the mayor is known for. Mr. Bloomberg has contributed $50 million of his own money, as well as considerable effort and steadfastness in the face of personal attacks, to promote gun law reform, and he has emerged as one of the few political figures with the money and toughness to stand up to the National Rifle Association.
Just last Sunday, Mr. Bloomberg was on "Meet The Press" urging Americans to continue to press the cause of reducing gun violence with their legislators. The recent fatal shootings near the University of California, Santa Barbara should resonate at Williams College. So should Mr. Bloomberg’s efforts to stop needless gun-caused bloodshed across the nation, on campuses and off.
Williams hasn’t embarrassed itself to the extent of two other Massachusetts colleges -- Smith, which withdrew a speaking invitation to International Monetary Fund Director Christine Lagarde, and Brandeis, which did the same to Ayaan Hursi Ali, a critic of Islam -- because campus factions didn’t care for them. Colleges must judge speakers and honorees in the full context of their entire lives, not by one or two actions or statements. It should also be part of the educational process for students to listen to speakers who are not sanitized for their protection and may have something interesting and challenging to offer.
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