Tying Up Loose Ends. Carefully.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve spoken with a lot of people about the speaker for our graduation ceremony – initially because I believed I would be writing an article on it for the Docket.  An article, by the way, that I did not volunteer for, though I thought it was important that someone (preferably someone else) wrote it.  I will not be writing that article, for the reasons articulated below.  For those of you who are curious, here is what I know about the course of events that will leave Docket readers with no news about the speaker controversy, but which has had some positive result.

The controversy began with what seemed like a troubling disparity between the character of our class and the politics of the speaker; he seemed a strange choice for the class that produced L.I.V.E. and BYOB, and headed organizations like Law Students for Reproductive Justice and OUTlaw.  Further research revealed that while SBA had offered suggestions to the administration for speakers in the past, there was actually no mechanism in place to give the graduating class any voice in the choice of their keynote speaker.

I spoke with a lot of students.  Some were outraged.  Some were mildly annoyed.  Some didn’t care.  Some were outraged that anybody was outraged.

Then I got a very brief email from our Editor in Chief saying that the paper would be running nothing on the graduation speaker topic.  That email bothered me more than everything else put together, as it came shortly after his visit with the Dean to discuss the issue.  Wondering if the state funded school where I am trying to earn a degree in law was actually squelching it’s own press, I asked the editor about it, and I went to the Dean’s forum and asked the Deans about it, too.

The upshots: The Dean was careful to assure me that our editor was not forbidden to print anything.  He was persuaded that what could be a very sensationalized topic could cause more harm than good to the old Alma Mater.  Also, the Dean said, there just wasn’t a news story here. (The first argument I get, mostly because the Dean is very persuasive.  The second one. . .hmm.  You had to address this in two Student Forums and meet privately with several students?  Sounds like news to me.) *  Further, the Deans reserve their right to choose state leaders, regardless of their political stances.  They site lots of historical justification for that position, and the expectation is that politics will not be a part of the graduation speech.  Finally, they actually apologized for the fact that there is no system in place for the student body to contribute to the choice of speaker, and. . .wait for it. . .they are going set a date for future years to make sure they talk to the SBA.

So that’s a positive result of all this.

*Moment when I wished there was a camera on me so I could do a double take: after the Dean’s careful explanation of his discussion with the editor, a young woman behind me raised her hand and announced primly that she thought anything negative about the speaker would be very disrespectful and should not be allowed to be printed.  And. . .sigh.  I hope she just hasn’t taken Con Law yet.