Pomp and circumstances: Booted speakers raise academic concerns

Stefanie Botelho's picture
Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Colleges and universities brace annually for “disinvitation season,” those thorny weeks before graduation when speakers flunk out due to politics, political correctness, or, in one recent case, years-old sex images that found their way onto the Internet.

The unwelcome wagon has grown increasingly crowded in recent years, and some free-speech experts contend those moves send an unhealthy message to an audience full of degree recipients in their caps and gowns.

Invitations extended to nine speakers this year raised the ire of students or professors, prompting protests, the threat of at least one boycott –- and the withdrawal Saturday of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from the commencement ceremony at Rutgers University. She previously was scheduled to address Rutgers students and receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree May 18. But some faculty members had protested that choice due to Rice’s role in the Iraq War.

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