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UC San Diego lands the Dalai Lama as commencement speaker — but some Chinese students protest

 (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The season of commencement speakers is beginning — and so starts the season of protests over them.

UC San Diego has landed the Dalai Lama to deliver the keynote address at its June 17 commencement. But while the Tibetan Buddhist monk, the 14th Dalai Lama, is revered as an icon of peace to many, some Chinese students are protesting his longstanding efforts to protect Tibetan national identity from China, which claims the territory.

The Chinese Students and Scholars Assn. at UC San Diego criticized his selection, saying the Dalai Lama has long tried to "divide the motherland and to destroy national unity," Inside Higher Ed reported .

One student, Ruixuan Wang, wrote in the Guardian campus newspaper that he respected the Dalai Lama's achievements, including winning the Nobel Peace Prize, but that "his presence will ruin our joy" on commencement day.

UC San Diego is standing by its selection, saying in a statement that the Dalai Lama "carries a message that promotes global responsibility and service to humanity."

"This is just the beginning of 'disinvitation season,' " says Daniel Burnett of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which advocates campus free speech. The group has started a "disinvite database" to keep track of campuses at which efforts are made to withdraw invitations to controversial speakers. Last year, there were 43 — up from 21 in 2015.

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