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Protesting Commencement?

Friday, Jun. 1, 2012

The best college student comment on "Protesting Commencement?" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate.  Entries must be received by midnight, June 17.  Finalists are selected by likes, so get your friends to like your comment. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by email in the right hand column) for updates.  

After nearly four years of college, Ryan is finally graduating. As he goes online to figure out his responsibilities for the big day, he notices that his school has already chosen the commencement speaker: the CEO of a burgeoning business in the area. Not overly familiar with the woman, Ryan researches her and the company on the web.

Quickly, Ryan learns that although the successful business has donated lots of money to the surrounding community, it has been tied up in a number of lawsuits over the improper disposal of its wastes. Looking into the matter further, Ryan discovers that this particular CEO has even made changes in the company that directly resulted in less environmentally sustainable practices.

Ryan has been a member of Students for a Greener Earth since he was a freshman, and the college itself made a weighty pledge within the last year to improve its environmental sustainability. Unable to change the speaker but nonetheless outraged that she has been selected, Ryan intends to protest. 

One option is to pass out leaflets before or after the ceremony detailing her actions in light of the school's pledge; however, another possibility is to do something when she's on stage. While she speaks, he could stand and turn his back to her; he could rally his friends to chant a message against her; he could even gather a group of people to shout so loudly so she can't finish her speech. 

What do you believe he should do?

Resources

Framework for Ethical Decision Making 

Remarks by John J. Digioia, president of Georgetown University

Controversial Commencement Speaker Hall of Fame (Washington Post)

 

Photo by ragesoss available under a Creative Commons license.

 

Comments Comments

Nasiha said on Jun 17, 2012
This reminds me of my friend's university, UNC. Mayor Bloomberg spoke at the commencement and instead of attending, he held an alternative commencement with a different speaker and some students decided to attend that commencement instead. Nonetheless, there is a financial conflict of interest between the speaker and the university that should have been disclosed to the students. That seems to me that the school should've told the students. It is wrong to interrupt her because two wrongs don't make a write. He could turn his back on her, but that is pretty ineffective in driving home the point of the larger ethical issues that I see of the failure to disclose the conflict of interest. Anyway, handing out pamphlets is a great way of informing the audience but also ineffective. He should write an Op-Ed in a paper and generate negative publicity around this issue, maybe then the school will take action in addressing this issue. Not many are aware upon first glance about the conflict and so he should, if he cares to, inform others and lambaste the school for not telling them. - Like - 6 people like this.
Nasiha said on Jun 22, 2012
Have the winners been announced for this one? - Like
Miriam Schulman said on Jun 22, 2012
Nasiha, Sorry we got a little buried with graduation and the changing of staff at The Big Q. We really appreciate your comments, but we have decided not to name a winner for this contest. You will see in our rules that we reserve the right not to award a winner, and in this case, we didn't feel that we had enough comments to make the prize meaningful. We hope you will try again. - Like
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Tags: campus free speech, Commencement, Protest, whistleblower