Are today's colleges and universities still bastions of free speech or just degree mills for spoiled kids?

One speaker brought on to replace another speaker who had been forced out surprised the students by castigating those responsible in no uncertain terms.

The stunning move by a commencement speaker at Haverford College on Sunday to use the celebratory occasion to lambaste students who had protested against another speaker drew a standing ovation but also sharp criticism.

William G. Bowen, former president of Princeton, called the protestors’ approach both “immature” and “arrogant” and the subsequent withdrawal as a speaker of Robert J. Birgeneau, former chancellor of the University of California Berkeley, a “defeat” for the Quaker college and its ideals.

Bowen’s remarks to an audience of about 2,800, plus nearly 300 graduates, added a new twist to commencement speaker controversies playing out increasingly on college campuses. Bowen — one of three speakers who received an honorary degree — faced no opposition, but chose to address the issue, calling it “sad” and “troubling.”

The controversy arose over Birgeneau’s leadership during a 2011 incident in which UC Berkeley police used force on students protesting college costs. A group of more than 40 students and three Haverford professors — all Berkeley alums — objected to Birgeneau’s appearance, noting that many of them had participated in Occupy protests as well and wanted to stand in solidarity with Berkeley students. (source)

I went to college in the 60's, an era rife with student protests and the clash of political ideas. But we invited and listened to one speaker after another. Today's students often appear to lack enough confidence in their own ideas to let their minds be exposed to alternative ideas. Most students were eager to hear opposing ideas. Sure there were the few who tried to shout down a speaker, but most sat and waited for a chance to talk to those they oppose either in a question and answer session or in a reception or by debating about the speaker in the student newspaper.

Why to do so many of today's students just want silence alternative ideas?

Tags: commencement speakers

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U, you missed more than a meeting.

You missed the Viet Nam War's not being paid for by taxes. LBJ and the Dems who lied America into that war gave the debt to future taxpayers.

You missed the Repubs who in the mid-1980s announced -- yes, announced! -- that they didn't have the votes in Congress to shut down the social programs. They announced too that they would borrow money until the government was bankrupt and didn't have the money to pay for those programs.

Evidence?

Reagan and both Bushes borrowed and increased the federal deficit. You missed this too.

You didn't do what people who would be free have to do. You didn't pay attention.

I bet that on other issues you're staunchly opposed to stereotyping and painting with a broad brush.

SOME baby boomers may be behind some of the problems you seem to want to make us responsible for. Speaking for myself, I opposed the war in Vietnam, if I ever voted for a Republican, he was probably something like a county commissioner or secretary of state who was doing a good job and not being an asshole on social issues, but I can't even remember an instance. And don't think I'm alone.

But if you like stereotyping..

You must think that all blacks are criminals because some of them are criminals, all men rape because some men rape, all Muslims are terrorists because some are terrorists. I think I've made my point.

On the whole, though, do you think a commencement speaker's background is all that important as long as they do what most commencement speakers are expected to do and be optimistic cheerleaders for the graduating class? I'm sure that, seeing what happened, the Haverford graduating class would have been far more pleased with the original speaker than the one they got instead.

Now, lest I myself be accused of stereotyping, there are thousands of colleges and universities graduating students this year and so far, as far as I know, there have been only four cases of speakers being forced out. Still, I do wonder HAVE universities continued to be places where hot debate is welcome, or is it more usual for contrary voices to be muzzled?

Ahh I was waiting for you to reply. I know you were reading in discreetness and waiting for the perfect counterargument to my statement.

You say I am stereotyping? Come on now, lets be honest. Is it really "stereotyping" if you are part of the problem instead of the solution? If you are part of the problem, then you are rightly to be blamed. I know you are going to charge me of "Association fallacy" but if you look at Aristotle's Law of Association, you will see that I am really not that far off. In society there are many instances  you can be blamed as a whole for not doing the right thing. As of right now, the collective attitude and mindset of Baby Boomers is just to solely blame the younger generation of being "entitled" or "lazy". These attitudes create resentment towards the older generation. And it seems the older generation has no willingness to admit they are wrong or they played a huge part in destroying the economy.  Now this might not be everyone but in a community based society, you can say it is the majority and therefore history will look at the actions of the Baby Boomer Generation as a whole, not as individuals.

Anyways regarding the background of the commencement speaker. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT what the background of the commencement speaker is as he is there to inspire the future and LEAD BY EXAMPLE. One more time, LEAD BY EXAMPLE. A commencement speaker isn't just there for speaking, but to connect with the audience and comfort them in their journey ahead. That is communication 101. 

Do you know anything about Birgeneau? This man actually approved violence against the protesters and the police came beating the crap out of the students using their batons. So tell me is this is the type of leadership you want as your speaker trying to connect with you? I sure as hell do not.

If a commencement speaker is just to be there to say all goodie good things and be a sideline cheerleader regardless of his actual background, then might as well bring in Hitler to be a commencement speaker in Tel Aviv University. Not saying that Birgeneau is the same Hitler but I am sure you do get the point, how a speaker's background is connected to his leadership skills and how audience can connect to him.

Where is it written in the Heavens (by God?) that the speaker has to lead by example? If he can give good advice and some chuckles, that's all it should require.

When you disobey lawful orders, you are inviting violence, are you not? His order was most likely to remove the protesters by whatever means was required, so it was the protesters disobedience that raised the level to one requiring violence.

I seriously doubt that he told the police to "go out there and beat the crap out of them." If police tell you to vacate an area, and you don't, what do you expect to happen? If your cause is just, there's always another way, but if you choose civil disobedience, don't expect the police to roll over and play dead.

There was a time when people understood that civil disobedience might mean being maced or beat over the head. Not any more, apparently!90

I don't know what nonsense has been fed to you, but the protesters were protesting very peacefully until that idiot called in the police and then they police went haywire on the protesters.

The fact that my fellow Generation Y members haven't bashed that loser's head in the ground, just goes to show you patience we have as a generation.

If you're asked to leave in a legal way and you peacefully don't, what do you think comes next? YOU GET REMOVED!!!

Maybe a flower show had the mall in a day or two or something.

Student's tuition pay for that campus. If they want to protest there, they have every right. The only loser that should have been removed by a baton and sent back to Canada is Birgeneau. Once a scientist, now just another bureaucrat sellout. 

That's like saying that somebody bought a sweater at Target so they should be able to protest there, or somebody bought a half-caf coffee at Starbucks so they should be able to protest there.

Paying for a service (or merchandise) doesn't give one any degree of ownership of the establishment, or any special rights that allow them to disrupt operations.  It only entitles them to the service or item that they purchased.

I think any university in America would have welcomed Steve Jobs (who never graduated from college, BTW) as a commencement speaker. Only one school got him.

YET, here was a guy who used cute marketing techniques to trick a young demographic into buying overpriced appealing-looking products made in China by grossly-underpaid and mistreated workers, so many of whom launched themselves into oblivion from the roof of the factory that nets had to be installed.

I looked into becoming one of their home-based product support specialists (I had worked in a call center supporting Apple products for a few months), but their work rules were very exploitative and the pay really ridiculousd. I'm sure that the same rules that were in effect when Jobs was in charge.

Funny. For years Bill Gates was ridiculed as some sort of schmuck, but he's actually making headway using his billions to reduce and hopefully eradicate malaria. By contrast, Jobs seems to have been a penny-pincher whose charitable efforts were minimal at best.

He also may have died by turning his back on scientific ways of treating his cancer and turning to New Agey "cures" instead.

What a great leader by example! Yet, did anyone object to him being a commencement speaker?

Wow you found one idiotic example of how a commencement speaker wasn't a great leader and now you use this to justify your weak logic? Great one.

Steve Jobs may not have been as philanthropic as Bill Gates, but as a business leader, he knew how to lead a company. If you are graduating from a Business School, that is exactly the type of person you want at your graduation, someone who is a proven leader in their area of expertise. 

So yes people do want leaders who lead by example in their graduation as commencement speakers.

In my military graduation, we had Retired Marine General John Allen (former commander of the International Security Forces)  come and speak to us. The guy is a proven leader and he has demonstrated in his career how to lead effectively. For a class full of Marine Officers who are about to become the future leaders of this country, that is exactly who you want to come talk to you at your graduation.

Why would we want just about any idiot commencement speaker come talk to us who has no idea how to be a leader? According to your logic, we should have might as well invited the biggest Anti Military person to our graduation. After all who cares if he has any commonality with us or even remotely can connect with us, the audience, as long as he can stand there and say some good things, right?

I agree with the students for not wanting that loser as their speaker. He has nothing in common with them and the students disagree with his actions and he cannot in any way connect with his audience. The fact that he is whining about it just goes to show you what a old hag loser he is.

That's a pathetic reply.

Who wants militarists as leaders? This isn't the Philippines or some banana republic. We like our militarists in the military. In civilian life, they should be out playing golf.

Generally, commencements speakers don't qualify as idiots either literally or technically. There are probably far more idiots wearing graduation gowns.

Most commencement speakers HAVE been leaders.

I agree with the students for not wanting that loser as their speaker. He has nothing in common with them and the students disagree with his actions and he cannot in any way connect with his audience. The fact that he is whining about it just goes to show you what a old hag loser he is.

Are you talking about the original speaker or the one who called them out?

Who wants militarists as leaders? This isn't the Philippines or some banana republic. We like our militarists in the military. In civilian life, they should be out playing golf

WTF are you talking? Did you even think that through before hastily replying to me?

Some of the great leaders in America were former military leaders who were in fact bunch of militarists. For example Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower,  JKF, and Reagan. Some one should be asking you about " idiots wearing graduation gowns."

I can completely tell you missed the actual point about me referring to a Military leader speaking as a commencement speaker TO bunch of junior military officers and not just some random speaker.

And I was talking about Birgenau. The only ones defending him is you, Bowen and your fellow  baby boomers. What a surprise there huh?

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