Graduation No Place for Partisan Politics · 02 June 2004

By Jim Brown--Agape Press, 06/02/04

The head of a campus watchdog group says partisan political remarks have unfortunately become standard fare in college commencement addresses.

Last year the Center for the Study of Popular Culture conducted a study tracing the commencement speakers at a number of prominent colleges and university over the past ten years. The study found that liberals outnumbered conservatives 15 to 1.

Sara Dogan, the national campus director of Students for Academic Freedom, says this year has been no different. She says what troubles her is "not even so much the ideology held by these commencement speakers, but the fact that they use the university commencement as a launching pad for their own personal ideologies, often going so far as to attack the students and their parents in the audience."

Dogan is concerned about the partisan political remarks that so many speakers have been voicing at college graduation ceremonies this year. She says there is no room for such comments at graduation, especially when there are all sorts of topics that they could address, such as talking with students about going out into the world, setting goals, or succeeding in their careers.

The academic freedom advocate notes that while novelist E.L. Doctorow was at Hofstra University lambasting President George W. Bush as a "storyteller" who lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, filmmaker Ken Burns was criticizing the Iraq war during his commencement address at Yale.

Dogan contends there are better ways for schools to introduce students to the political climate of the day than "subjecting their newest alumni to an ideological tongue lashing that permits no opportunity for reasoned debate."

For instance, "They could even address politics more generally, in the sense of 'Read the newspaper, keep up with current events, develop your own opinions.' But to just hammer them home with one ideology -- that's wrong," Dogan says.