Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

Morehouse faculty and students raise concerns about Biden’s graduation speech

By 37ci3 Apr25,2024

ATLANTA, Ga. – Morehouse College administration plans to hold a convocation on Thursday – where faculty will have a chance to speak – to apply is disturbing Regarding President Joe Biden being the school’s commencement speaker next month.

“From our perspective, it really presents an incredible opportunity to have a sitting president come to Morehouse,” said Morehouse Provost Kendrick Brown, who will co-host the call with the school’s president tonight, adding, “It’s something that fits the mission of Morehouse. and at the same time it aims to be a place that allows for the engagement of social justice issues and spiritual concerns.

Inaugural season is traditionally a time for presidents to connect with younger audiences and all the energy they bring. But this year, with pro-Palestinian protests — and protests over Biden’s support for Israel — dominant college campuses, these outputs are more complete. The White House announced this week that Biden will make only two commencement speeches this year, at Morehouse and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Morehouse professor Andrew Douglas said many students and faculty are “wrestling” with whether or how to protest next month’s commencement.

“I’ve talked to a couple of teachers who have said they’d sit on the stage with Joe Biden without any strings attached,” Douglas said, adding, “It’s on everybody’s mind.”

Douglas, a political science professor in his 13th year at Morehouse, is a member of the school’s 15-member faculty council, which wrote a letter to the school’s president last week expressing “disappointment” at the rumors that Biden had been invited. to talk

After those concerns surfaced, Morehouse administration decided to hold a meeting with faculty members, even though officials made it clear that Biden’s invitation would not be rescinded.

“This was a decision that should have involved more members of the campus community — students and faculty,” Douglas said. “And if those conversations had happened, I’m not sure the decision to go forward would have been made.”

He pointed to “very serious and widespread concerns” about the war in Gaza, arguing that “the Biden administration is complicit in seven months of death and destruction in a way that we do not condone or support.”

On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded to the backlash, telling reporters that the commencements are designed to focus on graduates and their families.

“It’s obviously not the first time he’s given the opening remarks,” he said. “I understand that this is a different moment in time that we’re in. But he always takes this moment as a special time to deliver a message, an encouraging message, a message of hope to the graduates and their families. “We will continue to have these conversations with different communities about what’s going on. We understand. It’s painful.”

Morehouse senior Calvin Bell, who is voting for Biden in 2020, has similar concerns. While he described Biden’s speech as a “distraction” from celebrating students during commencement, he also sees the visit as a chance to take students’ concerns about Gaza directly to the president.

“It’s also an opportunity for students to make their voices heard in a time of increasing war and genocide in the Middle East,” Bell said.

While Douglas acknowledged that a call with the administration would not result in the cancellation of Biden’s speech, Douglas said the priority among faculty is to protect students’ rights to protest, noting that the protest took place at Morehouse — the nation’s only college dedicated to the education of black men. — may pose a different risk than similar protests on other campuses around the country.

“Our priority … has to be to try and ensure that under no circumstances are the police victimizing our students,” Douglas said.

“Our students typically don’t have the same privileges as Ivy League students, and confrontations with the police can be deadly for our students,” he said.

“We have a legacy of being at the forefront of justice movements,” Brown said. “Certainly, we encourage our students, faculty, and staff to form strong opinions and come together peacefully and deal with it. So the way I see it is, it’s certainly an opportunity … for our community, certainly, to engage with the president to express the views we have on the current issues in Israel and Gaza.

From a political point of view, the speech has some significance for Biden. Morehouse is located west of downtown Atlanta in the battleground state of Georgia – a state Biden narrowly won in 2020. Some state Democrats expressed his concern about his ability to repeat that victory.

Dr. A speech at Martin Luther King Jr.’s lauded alma mater would also give the president a unique opportunity to appeal to young black voters — a group that polls show is the norm. his support lags behind.

But with the launch still a month away — plenty of time for mindsets to change — Douglas said the early signs don’t point to a warm welcome: “I haven’t talked to a student who’s happy about it.”

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By 37ci3

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