Readers React: Students hold commencement speakers accountable

It’s easy to criticize the college students who rallied against such commencement speakers as Condoleezza Rice, Robert J. Birgeneau and Christine Lagarde because they condemn their views on the Iraq war, the Occupy movement’s conduct at UC Berkeley or the International Monetary Fund. (“What college kids don’t want to hear,” Editorial, May 19)

Sure, their demands may be thin-skinned, offensive and unrealistic. But isn’t one of the purposes of college to encourage informed criticism of exactly such people as these now no-show speakers? Over the top as some of the student protesters may be, their views aren’t entirely unreasonable.

Back in the 1960s I was pleased to hear students protesting the Vietnam War and the politicians who caused it. When I see college students again condemn speakers who are indeed vulnerable to informed criticism, I find myself saying, “What took you so long?”

Spencer Grant


Laguna Niguel

It is with sadness that I have read over the last weeks of several commencement speakers deciding not to speak due to protests. The speakers are not individuals on the fringe; they are people of distinction, including a former secretary of State and an ex-chancellor of UC Berkeley.

Politically, even at the ripe old age of 61, I would consider myself a liberal. I may disagree with Rice on many issues, but if I were a graduating senior, I would consider it an honor and a privilege to have her deliver the commencement speech at my graduation.

We all need to hear divergent views on the great issues we face. Shame on the faculty members who believe these speakers should not speak. While they certainly have a right to protest the invited speakers’ opinions, they certainly do not have the right to keep them from speaking.


Steven Barkin

Los Angeles

Hats off to college students across the country who are passionate enough about issues that they are challenging their schools’ choices for commencement speakers. Let’s hope that as they mature, they maintain the same zeal to address the social, economic and environmental problems they’ve been handed by today’s leaders.

Let’s also hope that when their time comes, they won’t high-tail it out of town like Lagarde, Birgeneau and Rice when they are held accountable for their actions.

Neal Sacharow

Santa Monica

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