As temperatures finally rise and trees bloom, the class of 2014 is preparing to don their caps and gowns, bid farewell to the cozy confines of campus life, and attempt to enter into an unwelcoming workforce; maybe they’re even carrying around a mountain of student loan debt. It is understandable, then, that the class of 2014 is a little bit on edge. But someone needs to tell them to calm the hell down.
Today marks the second time in a month that a powerful female figure has pulled out of delivering a commencement speech because of opposition from a seriously uptight and holier-than-thou student body.
Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, has decided not to serve as commencement speaker for Smith College’s May 18, 2014 graduation, after students started a petition protesting her selection.
The petition—which boasts 483 signatures (less than half of their goal of 1,000)—states that although they “do not wish to disregard all of Ms. Lagarde’s accomplishments” and they “recognize that she is just a good person working in a corrupt system” they do not want to “encourage the values and ideals that the IMF fosters.” As if Smith College has such influence that allowing Lagarde to address its graduating class will have some kind of measurable effect on how people think about the IMF.
On the petition page, a student is quoted as saying she is “utterly disgusted that Smith has chosen to host someone from the IMF, an organization that has proven itself to be nothing but imperialistic, ineffective, and oppressive.”
Because God forbid these delicate students should be exposed to an idea or an organization with which they disagree—at college.
Whether or not you think the IMF is destructive, Lagarde is a powerful woman who has probably managed to do more in her 58 years on the planet than many whole graduating classes accomplish in the entirety of their lives.
Earlier this month, former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, pulled out of delivering a commencement speech for Rutgers University in New Jersey (for which she would have received $35,000 and an honorary degree), following protests from students and faculty, including a sit-in conducted by over 50 members of the student body, because of her role in advocating for the Iraq War.
Rice occupied one of the most important offices in the whole country. But you’re right, kids, she probably has nothing interesting to say or any good advice because she was involved in a senseless war.
Colin Powell (also: Iraq) is scheduled to deliver the commencement at High Point University. Sean Combs is going to address the graduating class at Howard University. I am personally offended by both of those people, but you know what? I bet they’ll both have something interesting to say—even if I don’t agree with every item on their CVs.
Millennials have grown up in a world where you are never forced to see, hear or read anything that you haven’t personally selected. 7,000 TV channels, a DVR to skip commercials, millions of websites—we have been able to curate our own little worlds using technology, wherein nothing unpleasant or offensive can creep in. So when we’re forced to sit through a commercial or, heaven forbid, listen to someone talk who isn’t Mary-freakin’-Poppins, we can’t handle it.
The entire point of college is to be exposed to different things: Different types of people, different ideas—and maybe some of those people will hail from organizations that negatively impacted poor countries, or maybe they were partly responsible for a war that ate up the country’s resources and resulted in human rights abuses and lots of needless death. But if, at the end of your time as an undergrad, you haven’t learned that oftentimes you find great wisdom in shitty people, or just that there might be some value in hearing what someone you don’t like or respect might have to say, what on earth have you learned?
Smith College President Kathleen McCartney, who is apparently the only sane person in the room at that institution. said in a statement that activists had their “desired effect, but at what cost to Smith College?
I want to underscore this fact: An invitation to speak at a commencement is not an endorsement of all views or policies of an individual or the institution she or he leads…I remain committed to leading a college where differing views can be heard and debated with respect.”
Young people are the worst.