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This commencement speaker wasn’t democratically elected

The following reflects the majority opinion of the Editorial Board.

Miami University announced last week that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine will be the 2020 Spring Commencement speaker

The decision has divided the campus and put politics at the forefront of graduation — an event meant to celebrate the achievements of the students walking across the stage.

Miami extended the invitation to speak at graduation to DeWine shortly after he was elected as Governor, Secretary of the Board of Trustees (BoT) Ted Pickerill wrote in an email to The Miami Student. In previous years, Miami has consulted a committee made up of students, faculty and staff led by Pickerill before selecting a speaker. 

This year, however, no students were consulted before DeWine was selected.

Quite frankly, it isn’t surprising but is nonetheless disappointing that just after we got done telling everyone to demand more from this institution and ask Miami to fight for students, Miami chooses someone who actively works to take away the rights of at least half of the student body. 

Our staff is frustrated that Miami is giving DeWine yet another platform when we should instead be celebrating our fellow students, which has absolutely nothing to do with politics — left, right or center.

But, our deeper resentment lies with the university’s conscious choice not to consult students, demonstrating (once again) that Miami does not prioritize its students’ opinions. 

Student leaders should always be consulted on the selection of a commencement speaker. It is a way for university leaders to gauge campus climate and ensure they are selecting a speaker that will inspire a majority of students. 

By sidestepping students in the selection process, Miami is reflecting how willfully out of touch the administration is with our campus.

Our staff does not think any active politician, no matter what their party or position is, should serve as a commencement speaker — because graduation is not a partisan event.

Politicians lead with agendas, and their words, often penned by a speechwriter who is only trained in that politician’s talking points, promote that agenda in some capacity. 

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There is no perfect commencement speaker, but, in choosing a politician, Miami has inherently alienated half of the graduating class.

We encourage the university to find a speaker that celebrates a wide array of perspectives — values Miami has consistently advertised as each incoming class becomes more diverse. We urge Miami to seek speakers that inspire soon-to-be graduates on a human level — not a political one.

During the December 2019 commencement, former Media, Journalism and Film chair, Richard Campbell, addressed the graduating class of 2019 and compelled them to find deeper meaning — in their future personal and professional lives — through the power of storytelling. He advocated for graduates to pay attention to the narratives they all will play a part in creating, and inspired graduates to recognize how interconnected all of our stories truly are.

And, we can look toward former students for inspiration. In fact, there’s no shortage of notable alumni from which to choose commencement speakers. 

Every year, Miami presents the 18 of the Last 9 award to 18 successful alumni from varying fields that graduated from Miami within the last nine years. The recipients offer a diverse array of perspectives, career paths and stories. Plus, they’re closer in age to the students they’re speaking to. 

Choose one of those recipients. 

Choose a woman! The last time Miami had a female speaker at their spring commencement was in 2015

Choose an alumni that has devoted their career to lifting others up, rather than working against the rights of those less powerful than themselves. 

Choose someone that will represent the students and the campus they are leaving behind today, not the campus of past generations that so poorly reflected the diversity we now have.