Commencement Exercises at Nation's Top Schools Dominated by Liberals

By Shannon Augustus | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

(Correction: Fixes that U.S. News & World Report did not participate in the survey)

( - With the nation's colleges and universities widely viewed as liberal institutions, the list of commencement speakers this past graduation season was also dominated by either Democrats or liberals, according to a recent survey.

In fact, The Young America's Foundation, using U.S. News and World Report's list of the nation's most prestigious colleges and universities, found that for eleven consecutive years the liberal left has dominated commencement ceremonies.

Ron Robinson, president of the Young America's Foundation, said colleges and universities look at the graduation ceremonies the same way they look at the classrooms.

"For eleven years, we've shown that college administrators are using commencement ceremonies to send their students off with one more predictable leftist lecture," he said.

According to the Young America's Foundation, the 11-year study also indicated that conservative speakers were mostly excluded from the commencement exercises.

Liberals speaking at commencements in the past have included Clinton administration secretary of state Madeleine Albright speaking at Duke University, United Nation Secretary-General Kofi Annan at Harvard University, and presidential candidate Ralph Nader at Bucknell University.

Roger Custer, program officer with the Young America's Foundation, summed it up bluntly.

"There is no balance and fairness and there is a lack of intellectual diversity in the speakers."

This year's commencement speakers included liberal media personalities such as PBS's Jim Lehrer at Beloit College, former television news anchor Walter Cronkite at Pomona College, NBC's Tim Russert at Fordham University, and television host Jon Stewart at both Princeton University and the College of William & Mary.

"There are all kinds of liberal media personalities who are featured at these commencement addresses," said Custer, who mentioned Cronkite, CNN anchor Judy Woodruff, and MSNBC's Chris Matthews. "But there are no conservative media figures at all."

The foundation also noted that some schools like Yale University and Tulane University have extreme liberal track records because many times the school's administration's ideology determines who the commencement speaker will be.

"Often the professors, the people in social sciences and in the administration are liberals themselves," said Custer. "They are not interested in intellectual diversity."

Ron Nief, director of public affairs at Beloit College in Wisconsin agreed with Custer but said a school's bias does not rule out the conservative ideology.

"There is a liberal bias on most campuses, but not to the idea of excluding a conservative view," said Nief. "But if you got a department where the faculty has a general liberal leaning, then they are going to choose a speaker to examine a view."

Custer remarked that college administrations are not interested in hosting conservatives such as Bill O'Reilly or Tony Snow, "because they want to perpetuate their ideas and don't want students hearing a wide variety of perspectives."

This lack of diversity, Custer said, is a "disservice to the students," who he said should hear different points of view before choosing their own

When choosing a commencement speaker, Nief said college administrators do try to find someone who can provide balance. "Our speaker at the commencement was Jim Lehrer; I don't think anybody would put him in either camp. I think he is recognized as very fair and middle of the road."

Nief said the Beloit College administration would love to hear the conservative message, but many conservatives are just not interested. "It is not that only liberals are invited," he said. "It's the fact that conservatives in many cases have given up on college campuses."

Nief added that many times conservatives don't attend commencement exercises because the intended audience may disagree with their views. "When you try to get conservatives to speak on campus often times they just decline; saying "It's a liberal center and I am not interested.""

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