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Biden to speak at Morehouse College commencement, sparking faculty concerns

By 37ci3 Apr23,2024

WASHINGTON — Morehouse College is set to announce that President Joe Biden will deliver the commencement address on May 19, but some faculty have expressed concerns about the decision, according to two people familiar with the matter and an email to faculty members reviewed by NBC News. .

Kendrick Brown, Morehouse College’s senior vice president and senior vice president for academic affairs, wrote in an email to faculty members on Friday: “This week, I have heard from concerned faculty about rumors that President Biden has been selected as the 2024 Commencement speaker. I received a request”.

Brown said he will be holding a virtual meeting Thursday to “extend the opportunity to ask questions and provide comments to faculty with diverse perspectives on the selection of our commencement speaker.” He said the students will also be contacting college president David Thomas.

Brown did not respond to a request for further comment, and a spokesman for Morehouse declined to elaborate.

A Morehouse faculty member told NBC News administrators believed they were worried faculty members would join students in protesting Biden during the ceremony.

The pushback against the administration’s decision comes amid growing opposition on college campuses to Biden’s support for Israel in the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Protests have already forced Biden and other top administration officials to sharply curtail appearances on college campuses since the war began in October.

Inaugural season is typically when presidents reach younger audiences, offering them opportunities to deliver keynote speeches highlighting their achievements and future. In an election year, commencement speeches can be especially important.

But Biden’s appeals this year will be difficult, largely because of mounting protests over his refusal to call for a permanent, immediate ceasefire in Gaza without conditions. Biden is struggling with young voters, and recent polls show many black voters are reluctant to support his candidacy.

Speaking at a historically Black college would provide an “opportunity” for Biden, according to a person familiar with the controversy.

The White House declined to comment.

Israeli Hamas conflict Columbia University Palestinian protest
Pro-Palestinian protests have rocked college campuses across the country. Kena Betancourt / AFP – Getty Images

Brown wrote in an email that Morehouse first extended an invitation to Biden in September, and that the college will announce him as the speaker earlier this week.

And he wrote, “The college does not plan to rescind its invitation to President Biden.” Thursday’s meeting is “a forum to discuss and answer questions about the invitation extended and accepted,” he said.

Morehouse, like other colleges, has encountered students speaking out about the war in Gaza. In February, Maroon Tiger – Morehouse’s student publication – informed said a student pulled down an Israeli flag from the church and was detained by campus police.

“Students are not in favor of how the United States is handling this situation, and certainly not in favor of the trauma, pain and genocide that the Palestinian people are going through, innocent civilians and Israel are going through as well,” Morehouse College student Calvin Bell said in February after the flag incident.

A source familiar with the launch plan told NBC News: “It was no secret that there was a lot of concern, if not globally, about how the war was being handled and how America and the presidency were doing in that area. war. We have heard such conversations. There are also a lot of people who are excited to have a sitting president as a commencement speaker.”

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By 37ci3

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