Are you seriously telling me that a former chancellor of a major university, a former U.S. Secretary of State, and the current head of the International Monetary Fund are so allergic to complaints about them that they can’t bring themselves to speak to graduating classes unless they’re assured that no one will offer anything harsher than polite applause in response to their remarks? I guess the rich and powerful really are different from us–they think that their work and decisions should put them above any questions or criticism from the mere hoi polloi. What a bunch of wimps!
Students and faculty are perfectly within their rights to question the bestowal of honorary degrees on these speakers. But from what I’ve seen, speakers are declining to appear at commencements if anyone merely questions the righteousness of their appearance on campus on Twitter or other social media, or stages a few sit-ins or teach-ins. So my question is, is it really students or higher education that’s being closed-minded here, or is it enormously wealthy and powerful people who need to suck up a little guff while they’re picking up their honorary degrees? (And in the case of Condoleeza Rice, $35,000 as well?)
Who’s speaking at your graduation? (I don’t even know who’s speaking at the ceremony I’m attending on Friday afternoon. Usually it’s a faculty member or a local pol or alum–no one particularly interesting or controversial.) Do you even care?