Commencement speaker chastizes students for protesting speakers
This is refreshing from William Bowen, former president of Princeton, who blasted students at Haverford College for pressuring a speaker originally invited to address graduates to cancel.
I bet these kids parents never talked to them the way that Bowen did.
A commencement speaker on Sunday blasted Pennsylvania college students as “immature” and “arrogant” for protesting another speaker who then decided to withdraw.
William Bowen, former president of Princeton University, used his commencement speech at Haverford College outside Philadelphia to criticize students who campaigned against Robert Birgeneau, former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley.
Birgeneau is among several commencement speakers who canceled their appearances this spring amid student protest.
More than 40 students and three professors had protested Birgeneau’s invitation to speak, objecting to his handling of a 2011 incident at Berkeley in which police used force at a student protest. The group wanted Birgeneau to apologize, support payments for victims, and write a letter to Haverford students explaining his position on the events and “what you learned from them.”
Birgeneau, who was also supposed to receive an honorary degree from Haverford, refused those demands and others in a terse email.
“I am disappointed that those who wanted to criticize Birgeneau’s handling of events at Berkeley chose to send him such an intemperate list of `demands,’” Bowen said Sunday.
“In my view, they should have encouraged him to come and engage in a genuine discussion, not to come, tail between his legs, to respond to an indictment that a self-chosen jury had reached without hearing counter-arguments.”
Bowen also said Birgeneau had “responded intemperately, failing to make proper allowance for the immature, and, yes, arrogant inclinations of some protesters. Aggravated as he had every right to be, I think he should be with us today.”
He called Birgeneau’s withdrawal a defeat for the university.
Bowen received a standing ovation.
I think this incident shows the protests are less about trying to uninvite a speaker and more about the exercise of power. Students bank on either school administrators to give in because they don't want "divisiveness" when mommy and daddy show up to watch their little one graduate, or hope that the invited speaker doesn't feel like facing their juvenile protests. When the chance appears to excrcise power - regardless of the reason - most people that age will grab for it.
I would like to see conservative students push back at this trend - even if the speaker, as in this case, is liberal. In fact, there has been very little coverage of any pushback at all - no Facebook pages, no protests, no letters to the administration defending the invite of a controversial speaker (or a conservative one which ends up being the same thing).
The tolerance-challenged liberals on campus should be put on notice that some students will fight back against their despicable tactics.