Invitation to Snyder contradicts core values

Invitation to Snyder contradicts core values

President Erickson’s invitation to Gov. Rick Snyder to be the May 2018 commencement speaker challenges NMU’s publicly stated “core values” of community, opportunity, rigor, environment, inclusion, connections and innovation.

Commencement is a time to celebrate these values, and the commencement speaker should reflect NMU’s support for social justice, democracy, civil society and human and environmental rights. Snyder does not.

Most folks are painfully aware of the Flint water crisis and the Snyder administration’s culpability.

The tragedy was a direct result of the governor’s atrocious Emergency Manager Law that imposed upon the city’s democratically elected government an administrative autocrat, operating with impunity outside the normal process of public accountability. The city’s largely marginalized populations did not have the political clout to prevent the usurpation of their democratic rights.

Just last week, new evidence was introduced into the ongoing investigation of Snyder and his administration that indicates Snyder may have perjured himself before Congress to evade responsibility for the Flint water disaster.

NMU values environmental protection, yet the Snyder administration facilitates the continued corporate assault on the environment. He allows Enbridge, the company responsible for the Kalamazoo River oil spill, to pump oil beneath the Straits of Mackinac through aging pipelines.

Companies like Enbridge and Lundin Mining in Marquette County endanger our lands and waters and dishonor Native American treaty rights.

Snyder has also struck a deal between the State of Michigan and the Nestle Corporation to pump 130 million gallons of water each year for only $200 annually. In response to the Flint water crisis, the Snyder administration discussed buying bottled water from Nestle to give to Flint residents.

NMU values democracy in the workplace as a counter to unrestrained corporate power, yet Snyder supported and signed into law Michigan’s “Right-to-Work” (RTW) legislation.

Despite right-wing claims to the contrary, RTW has caused a power shift away from working people toward the hands of the corporate elite, further whittling away decades of progress made in securing labor rights through collective bargaining.

Michigan’s RTW legislation was part of a larger national campaign orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive lobbying front for the one-percenters and multi-national corporations. ALEC crafted the legislation for sycophantic republican legislators, and Snyder touted the legislation by parroting ALEC’s talking points verbatim.

Democracy demands openness and inclusion. Erickson has publicly supported greater transparency in NMU’s governance, yet consideration of Snyder as commencement speaker occurred under a veil of secrecy.

The campus community learned of the fact only because of Dr. Brent Graves’ email announcement to the faculty last week.

The Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degree Committee did not solicit nominations, considered only one nomination (Snyder’s) and took no formal vote. It conducted its email deliberations during the summer break, when much of the campus was away.

The surreptitious nature of the commencement speaker selection process suggests a darker agenda. The provost’s assertion that the invitation was “not meant to be politically motivated” is naïve at best and disingenuous at worst.

It is fair to assume that Brad Canale, director of the NMU Foundation, nominated Snyder with the hope of garnering a hefty donation, and he almost certainly did so at the behest of the Board of Trustees, whose members are all Snyder political appointees.

These individuals received their appointments because of their major financial support of Snyder’s election campaigns. They have little to no experience in higher education and approach their responsibilities from the narrow perspective of managers of for-profit corporations.

We live in a dispiriting time when a boastful misogynist, racist and narcissistic bully occupies the White House and neo-fascism is on the rise.

The Snyder invitation is a symptom of this larger disease that we must confront with strong and united determination.

Faculty members, staff and students have formed a group in opposition to Snyder’s invitation as the May commencement speaker.

We are working on a series of educational activities designed to raise awareness of the issues revealed by the invitation. Our next meeting will be at 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13 in LRC 311.