28 Scripps Professors Will Protest Madeleine Albright’s Commencement Speech

Yesterday’s issue of The Student Life contained an open letter, signed by twenty-eight Scripps faculty members, criticizing the selection of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to deliver the commencement speech at Scripps College this May.

“As concerned Scripps faculty members, we are outraged at the selection of Madeleine Albright as the 2016 Commencement speaker and will not participate in this year’s graduation ceremony,” the professors write. “Our opposition to her speaking at commencement, however, has to do with her record during her service as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and U.S. Secretary of State.”

The professors condemn Albright for supporting sanctions on Iraq, for removing UN troops from Rwanda (Albright has stated, “My deepest regret from my years in public service is the failure of the United States and the international community to act sooner to halt these crimes), and for advocating for the U.S. bombing of Yugoslavia.

The letter adds that, “As a member of the Clinton administration, Albright was crucial in the crafting of ‘Plan Colombia,’ which funneled billions of dollars in aid to the country, 80 percent of which took the form of military aid to security forces, during a time when those forces were linked to right-wing paramilitary organizations.”

The faculty members also oppose having Albright speak at graduation because they don’t feel she’s done enough over the course of her career that is in ideological accordance with the demands Scripps students came up with last semester to encourage “unlearning.”

“The selection of Albright as the 2016 Commencement speaker runs counter to the spirit of student activism during fall 2015, which resulted in the demand to address institutional racism, among other forms of barred access,” the professors write. “As a women’s liberal arts college, we should promote the advancement of women and transgender peoples broadly and not simply emulate and celebrate those individuals who participate in U.S. state power and wield its violence. Representing the category of ‘woman’ in this way evacuates feminism of its anti-racist, anti-paternalistic, and anti-imperialist potential to address those lives that are systematically made vulnerable to sickness and death.”

The professors conclude their email by demanding they be included in the commencement speaker selection process rather than leaving that decision up to students. “With respect to the process for commencement speaker selection, it is our understanding that the selection is currently left in the hands of the senior class leadership with no input from faculty or other community members,” the letter states. “Because the commencement speaker is representative not only of the current senior class but also of the broader Scripps community, the process of selection should be reconsidered to better reflect Scripps values and commitments. In consideration of Scripps values and of our commitments to students and the institution, we will not be walking in graduation this year in protest of Albright’s presence.”

8 thoughts on “28 Scripps Professors Will Protest Madeleine Albright’s Commencement Speech”

  1. Postovani,zivim u Beogradu a porijeklom sam iz Krajine u Hrvatskoj.Od prvog dana 1991-1995 godine bio sam sudionik svih ratova.Potom sam u Oluji stigao u Srbiju 1996.Od 1996 do danas 2016.yivim u Beogradu.Po svim pitanjima koje pokrecete yelio bih sa Profesorom Peticije razgovarati na ravnoj nozi i to putem mojeg emaila;virginia.cdcd@gmail.com.Volio bih da nasa komunikacija bude na akademskom nivou.Diplomirao sam u Hrvatskoj dva (x2)fakulteta a u Jugoslaviji vojnu akademiju.Perfektno poznajem i M.Albright.Bio sam oficir u Gardi Josipa Broza Tita.Ako osjetite potrebu javite mi se.O meni zna puno Klinton,Bush i Obama naravno u pozitivnom smislu.Dragan Colovic Sincerely!

  2. I would probably choose not to attend Albright’s lecture-only because she was an incompetent idiot as Sec State. But to protest it? C’mon!

    You professors need to stop acting like babies and setting a poor example for your students.

  3. Well, of course they’re boycotting. She’s a Hillary supporter. As soon as Bernie is dispatched back to Vermont, and all the good professors have “coalesced” around Hillary, Ms. Albright will be welcomed back into the fold.

    She should simply reschedule her visit for September. By then, the faculty will have realized what a great Secretary of State she was and how much she helped women!

    It’s all so transparent.

  4. Keep in mind that commencement speakers, who are very much on display and embody certain values by their mere presence, do not take questions after their talk. There is no exchange of ideas at these events. There is no space to respond to the positions of others at commencement speeches. And the professors’ open letter is one of the few ways in which discussion can take shape given the decision by the administration to invite this speaker. So what you have here is the contribution of some faculty members to a debate taking place before your eyes. This seems to be a decent way of setting an example to the students. Such ideas can easily get lost with the exchange of insults and presumptions in online comment sections.

    1. Let me get this straight. Secretary Albright’s presence represents a threat to free speech because students and faculty aren’t allowed to pose questions or voice objections during a commencement? It therefore follows that she must be dis-invited (and so silenced) in order to protect free speech?

      Verbal parlor tricks can’t obscure the fact that this is about politics. As soon as Bernie has been refitted with his straight jacket, and it’s Hillary vs. some nasty Republican beast, the professors will find a way to love the Clinton clan once again.

      That’s why we love our academics. It’s all the honesty.

      1. There is no threat to free speech here (unless folks want to “silence” the professors from expressing their perspective). Some professors are engaging in their right to protest. And the professors’ letter says nothing about “dis-inviting” the speaker (so the profs aren’t advocating that the speaker be “silenced”). Honestly, expanding the imagination is hard work (and reading comprehension is a helpful part of that process), but there are more possibilities than the status quo currently on offer.

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