Disinvitation Season

May 16, 2014

By Bill Miller Sr. at The Missourian

There are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of college and university graduates who today could not tell you who the speakers were at their graduation ceremonies. Does this open the questioning of the value of having a “big name” graduation speaker?

This came to mind when we learned lately of the increasing number of graduation speakers who were invited and then “debooked” because students and/or faculty objected for whatever reasons. Some of those who were invited and then sacked because of protests probably should never had been invited. Others were treated unfairly.

Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education, which is a free speech group, is the one who coined the words “disinvitation season,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Since 2009, there have been 95 protests, resulting in 39 “sacked” speakers. 

A “big name” speaker who was disinvited this year at Rutgers University was Condoleezza Rice, former National Security Adviser to President George W. Bush. Membership is increasing in the “Disinvited Club.”

We do know parents of graduating students and others often enjoyed speakers at commencement programs. Many of the students will tell you they were bored, and were looking forward to the celebration later. That’s an age thing.

Should colleges and universities do away with graduation speakers? Stay away from controversial people?Should they obtain approval from student leaders and faculty members before they book a speaker? Schools like to book “big names” because it can be a prestige thing. We have been bored by some commencement speakers and we are sure, when we were one, we were on the boring list of some students. Of course, some students have been bored by a professor or two who taught them.

It does come down to who is running the institution — the administration or the faculty and students. Graduating students don’t have to go through the commencement process. They can just pick of their degrees at one of the offices and depart the campus. For some, it’s more fun to protest!

Cases: Nationwide: Colleges Across the Country Disinvite Commencement Speakers