The University of Notre Dame, a prominent Catholic university in Indiana, invited a Catholic Indianan to speak at this year’s commencement story. Shocker, right?
Well, it shouldn’t be, but students were outraged to hear that Vice President Mike Pence would be speaking. In response, roughly 100 students quietly walked out of the ceremony during his speech.
Like everything else these days, commencement speeches are highly political. One’s choice of commencement speaker sends a message about the university’s character and values. Unfortunately, academia-at-large is antagonistic toward anything remotely conservative these days. Thus, conservative voices, such as Vice President Mike Pence’s, are ignored if not silenced altogether.
This is especially true in Mike Pence’s case. You see, Pence now serves at the pleasure of President Donald Trump, which probably means he has no soul. Additionally, his policies as governor purportedly “marginalized our vulnerable sisters and brothers for their religion, skin color, or sexual orientation.”
Now, I will grant that at graduation, the last thing graduates want to do is sit through a long, cliche speech on how we’re now equipped to go out and conquer the world. There’s probably a viable argument that commencement speeches are a thing of the past that ought to be done away with. But for now, they’re here to stay.
To their credit, those who walked out did notify university staff of their decision. The university allowed it as long as they did not disturb the flow of the ceremony.
These days, I guess we should be thankful they let Vice President Pence speak at all. Texas Southern University, a historically black college, cancelled Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-TX) commencement speech after students protested. Instead of speaking at graduation, Sen. Cornyn will now visit the school on another occasion.
Cornyn’s particular sin regarded the way he used his power “in ways that continually harm marginalized and oppressed people.” They created a petition that gathered over 800 signatures.
Commencement season is just about over, with semesters ending across the nation. We’ll have to wait until next year to see who will be the next targets of speech suppression.