Gov. Snyder doesn’t define the Class of 2018

Illustration by EMMALENE OYSTI

Illustration by EMMALENE OYSTI

North Wind Staff

The controversy surrounding the invitation and acceptance of Gov. Snyder to speak at commencement was recently addressed at a university forum by President Fritz Erickson. He claimed that selecting Snyder “reflects our commitment to consider multiple opinions and perspectives. We don’t hold a litmus test for people who come to our campus and present. Universities should support the free exchange of ideas.”

It’s difficult to ignore the implications of selecting a commencement speaker with overwhelming political and moral baggage, and one who also has a say in appointing Board of Trustees (BOT) members.

The case against Snyder extends beyond party affiliations and into his moral code. Snyder had a hand in poisoning residents of Flint and put the potential for profit in front of the safety and health of people. Yet, he’s coming to speak in a place that is defined by fresh water and environmental health. What’s “pure” about that?

Snyder speaking at commencement represents a fundamental ignorance that the BOT has toward student voice and expectations. The board’s lack of foresight for the polarization between students, staff and administration that would be caused by Snyder’s invitation is foolish and narrowminded. Are we to believe that the board members thought that inviting him to speak wouldn’t make waves?

We don’t buy it, and we don’t expect other graduating students to either.

Before Snyder accepted, students made an effort to voice their concerns, primarily through a 400 signature petition that was presented to the board in December. Just like its decision to not recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a university-wide holiday, the board reinforced its deafness to student voice by approving the invitation.

A commencement speaker should reflect the characteristics of the graduating students and provide preparation for the world that isn’t rooted in questionable actions. Snyder does not. Snyder represents deception, utilitarianism and profit. Choosing Snyder indirectly attributes these characteristics to the Class of 2018.

We recognize that we’re not insulated from perspectives that differ from our own, but, difference is not the same thing as hypocrisy. How can the same university award alum Ron Fonger with the Distinguished Alumni of the Year award for his active role in exposing the Flint Water Crisis, and invite Snyder, the person who holds partial responsibility for the crisis?

We expect President Erickson to hold himself to his own standard—the student commencement speaker should be one that opposes Snyder so that there is a “free exchange of ideas.”

The investment that students have made in themselves ought to headline commencement, not someone who hasn’t made an investment in students, let alone the health of people.

Graduation should mirror your education: by you, for you. For those who are graduating in May, don’t assume that Snyder and the BOT define who you are as a student and a person.

SOUND OFF

What are your thoughts on having Gov. Snyder as commencement speaker?

Ryan Peterson, senior anthropology

“If people protest, then those are less names I have to listen to before I walk. I’m there for the diploma, not the speaker.”

Emily Gantner, senior outdoor recreation leadership and management

“It’s a good opportunity to hear what the other side has to say. But, I’m also there to celebrate my accomplishments at NMU.”

Dan Feenstra, senior history

“I’m not sure of what will happen. I would have preferred someone less political with a connection to NMU, like an alum.”

Alexa Hansen, junior sociology

“It would have been a better choice to invite someone less controversial. Anyone should be able to speak, as long as no offensive things are said.”