Should we ditch Commencement speakers?

010David Yamada, as usual, cast light where a great deal of ink had only obscured the issues. jp

Minding the Workplace

Every spring, news cycles fill with stories of college and university students protesting the selection of Commencement speakers, usually on political or religious grounds. Critics of the protests often respond that demanding withdrawal of a Commencement speaking invitation has the effect of discouraging free and robust speech.

Hmm…perhaps we should simply end the practice of inviting prominent people to speak at Commencements.

When students protest the selection of a Commencement speaker, it’s typically not just about their social or political views. Rather, something about that speaker detracts from a moment that should be for the students and their families. If a speaker has taken a particularly sharp or divisive position, his or her presence may actually spoil the ceremony for those students.

Yes, critics of the protesters raise valid concerns about undermining free speech. However, unlike a campus forum that students may choose to attend, those at a Commencement ceremony are…

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