Commencement Speaker Blasts 'Immature' Students

He slams students for forcing original speaker to cancel
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2014 4:03 AM CDT
Commencement Speaker Blasts 'Immature' Students
William Bowen, former president of Princeton University, delivers his second commencement speech to give to the 2014 graduates of Haverford College.   (AP Photo/The Philadelphia Inquirer, Clem Murray)

This year's commencement speaker at Pennsylvania's Haverford College used his speech to blast students for causing the original speaker to cancel. Dozens of students and three professors had protested the choice of former UC Berkeley chancellor Robert Birgeneau over his handling of an Occupy protest in 2011, the AP reports. He withdrew when protesters demanded an apology, a move that replacement speaker William Bowen, former president of Princeton University, described as an "intemperate" response to the "immature, and, yes, arrogant inclinations of some protesters."

Students "should have encouraged him to come and engage in a genuine discussion, not to come, tail between his legs, to respond to an indictment that a self-chosen jury had reached without hearing counterarguments," Bowen said. He tells the Wall Street Journal that Birgeneau is a "person of consequence" and he told students, "If you expect to agree with commencement speakers on everything, then who will you get to speak? Someone totally boring." Campus activists have forced several other commencement speakers to cancel this year, including Condoleezza Rice, who called off an address at Rutgers after protests from students who labeled her a war criminal. "Over the past two years, it’s really been intense," the chief of a free-speech group tells the Los Angeles Times. "I think universities are being more cautious about this and politely approaching speakers to say it’ll probably be really messy if you speak here.” (More Occupy Wall Street stories.)

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