Monday, May 12, 2014

Expect blander commencement speakers in the future

A week before she was to speak at the Smith College commencement, Christine Lagarde, chief of the International Monetary Fund, has withdrawn from the event, citing protests against her and the fund, the college said Monday.

Her withdrawal comes after Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, withdrew from speaking at the Rutgers University commencement in the face of protests against her role in Bush administration foreign policy, and weeks after Brandeis University rescinded its invitation to the rights advocate Ayaan Hirsi Ali to receive an honorary degree at its commencement, after protests over her anti-Islam statements. ...

Such reversals have become more common in recent years, said Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, referring to this time of year as “disinvitation season.” What has changed is not so much the protests themselves, but the willingness of colleges and speakers to give in, adding that many apparently voluntary withdrawals are made at the college’s urging. ...

Last year, in the face of protests, Robert Zoellick, a former World Bank president, Goldman Sachs executive and Bush administration official, withdrew from the Swarthmore College commencement, and Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and pundit who has spoken against gay marriage and evolution, pulled out of the Johns Hopkins University commencement. ...

Most of the incidents have involved complaints from the left, usually aimed at conservative figures, but not all. Last year, Providence College, a Catholic school, withdrew a speaking invitation to John Corvino, a writer and advocate of gay rights.
--Richard Pérez-Peña, NYT, on gutless colleges