Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Birgeneau Out As Commencement Speaker- Let It Go, Let It Go

...giving a commencement address is an honor for the speaker-- it is not part of instruction, research, not a seminar etc.. It is silly to try to present it as one of the items in the academic freedom protection package- a few folks have tried to spin it that way.

La Garde, Rice etc. each circumstance and venue tells its own story...

but in the case of Birgeneau now dropping out of Haverford it is important to remember that those events are still being looked at... Cal is still resolving it, observing its final resolution (see the most recent Daily Cal article link in this post). So, the invitation process at Haverford might perhaps need a fix, review on its democratic process in picking a speaker?

Even Birgeneau's terseness toward Haverford had flashes of some of the same circumstances that led to his Occupy drama:

SF Chron Birgeneau was traveling in Asia when the clashes occurred. He wrote in a letter to Haverford that he is a "longtime civil rights activist and firm supporter of nonviolence."
. (yep, remember Birgeneau apologized too, - in a phoned in message (made into a posted audio clip) while he was on a layover in some airport headed to a vacation?, another junket?- that was the way he apologized.)

If schools don't take a careful look at their commencement speakers in advance -- they might place the speaker in the position of having to withdraw from the commencement ceremony proceedings- to have to 'let it go, let it go'- (once the community finds out who the chosen speaker is, the speaker's history in light of current events) when the community then makes clear their concern or displeasure.

There's the Rice, La Garde side of things and then there's the 'folks who still have stuff pending when they accept the invitation to give the commencement speech' batch...NYT should not mix up the batches. (PS not quite sure why so much coverage on this paints the far left or just left as 'the protestors', there's a lot of this commencement speaker protest stuff coming from all sides nationwide. btw Opposition to Birgeneau does not just come from the extreme left or right, lots of mods have/had probs with him. Perhaps, nationwide, this is about the overall dissatisfaction with higher ed and the privatization of higher ed decisions in general. Commencement, usually the institution controlled symbolism, is one high visibility event folks decide to use as a symbol of their own on their way out the door? If so, the only way to fix it is to get folks to decide together in advance- and not just via a designated committee where decisions may or may not trickle down.)

Leaders in higher education have to demonstrate the leadership in actions - not just words.

Maybe next year Birgeneau can give the commencement at U. Toronto or MIT- based on stuff he did there? Have they ever asked him to do it?
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Really hope that the UCB Chancellor fireside chats/interactions with students at UC Berkeley are not just more perceived Disney speech.
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Lots goin' on in discussion at the UC Regents meeting right now.

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