Several universities have changed plans for commencement speakers, succumbing to student and faculty protests. In some cases, the speaker withdrew. Here are the latest and relevant communications:
- Former Chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley, Robert J. Birgeneau, has withdrawn as this year's speaker for Haverford College. A letter from students and a few faculty speaks of Haverford's "Quaker Values," including pacifism. It compliments Birgeneau's work on LGBT issues but criticizes his involvement in an event at Berkeley: "You supported UC Berkeley police in the use of extreme force against non-violent protestors..." Birgeneau did not appreciate the letter and the group's demands and responded with a missive of his own.
- Rutgers found a similar fate after announcing that Condoleeza Rice would speak at its commencement. Rice resigned, announcing the decision on her Facebook page.
- Christine Lagarde, president of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), withdrew her plans to speak at Smith College. Kathleen McCartney, president of the college, wrote a sharply worded letter about the protests, including these excerpts:
"Those who objected will be satisfied that their activism has had a desired effect. But at what cost to Smith College? This is a question I hope we will ponder as a community in the months ahead."
. . . .
"I want to underscore this fact: An invitation to speak at a commencement is not an endorsement of all views or policies of an individual or the institution she or he leads. Such a test would preclude virtually anyone in public office or position of influence. Moreover, such a test would seem anathema to our core values of free thought and diversity of opinion. I remain committed to leading a college where differing views can be heard and debated with respect."
- Read all of the communications associated with these decisions. What themes emerge in tone, organization, word choice, and so on?
- Which of these communications is the best example, and what makes it the best?
- Condeelza Rice's Facebook page has a serious punctuation error. Did you notice it?