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The Greatest Threat the Nation Faces



Finally, we can stop paying attention to Trump destroying the American political system and instead turn to a truly profound threat to our democracy: college students being mean to right-wing extremists.

Betsy DeVos went to Bethune-Cookman University on Wednesday, knowing her first commencement address as secretary of education could get ugly at the historically black institute of higher education.

It did — fast. Over sporadic heckling, and at some points to the backs of gown-clad graduates refusing to face her, Ms. DeVos implored: “One of the hallmarks of higher education, and of democracy, is the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree. And while we will undoubtedly disagree at times, I hope we can do so respectfully. Let’s choose to hear each other out.”

The school’s president, Edison O. Jackson, had to pause the ceremony about one minute into Ms. DeVos’s address to tell the crowd of students, “If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you.”

Above the jeers, Ms. DeVos delivered the standard exhortation to graduates to live a life of service, with courage and grace in the spirit of their school’s namesake.

It was a message that thousands believed Ms. DeVos — who many contend represents an administration that has shown only superficial knowledge of and support for historically black colleges and universities — was in no position to deliver to the 380 graduates of the school, which was founded by the educator and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune.

I await the inevitable New Yorker article about how college students unwilling to tolerate extremists on their campus is an existential threat to the republic. Could this be worse than the true terror of Oberlin students angry about the ethnic food in their cafeteria? Only several 8000 word articles in major publications can help us find out!

Of course, our favorite self-proclaimed Last True Leftist provides the intellectual fodder for conservative writers on these points once again.

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  • N__B

    “If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you.”

    That’s the second-emptiest threat I’ve ever heard. The emptiest was an exasperated father at a highway rest stop, saying to his child “Don’t make me say again ‘don’t make me say this again.'”

    • Hogan


    • Nobdy

      an exasperated father at a highway rest stop, saying to his child “Don’t make me say again ‘don’t make me say this again.’”

      That reminds me of a Robin Williams joke about how in England the cops don’t have guns so if you commit a crime instead of shouting “stop or I’ll shoot” they say “stop, or I’ll say stop again.”

      That, in turn makes me a little sad.

      • N__B

        Per Rorshach, “The man bursts into tears and says ‘But doctor, I am Pagliacci.'”

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      “say what again Daddy?”

    • Chetsky

      As Atrios reminds us periodically, “The Kids are Alright”. Damn, wish I’d been even 1% as woke as those young Americans, when I was graduating.

      • Procopius

        I’m wondering how much the school paid her for speaking.

    • Roger Ailes

      Shit. That would have been music to my ears, even if Betsy Natzy hadn’t been there.

  • charluckles

    You kid, but I live in a prosperous blue state and our largest newspaper has spent the past month on a tear about how incivility on college campuses is destroying our nation. Repeated editorials, relatively heavy coverage of related national events not occurring anywhere near our geographic area etc. At the same time little to no coverage of the constant drumbeat of Trumpscandals. It has to be deliberate.

    • JKTH

      You live in New York?

      • Judas Peckerwood

        I swear to fuck, the next liberal acquaintance who berates me for not financially supporting “The (toilet)Paper of Record” is getting a swift kick in the crotch. Beware!

    • Mike G

      I eagerly await their scathing investigation on the intellectual sterility and suppression of non-right-wing ideology at Liberty, Regent and Bob Jones “universities”.

    • DrDick

      Being rude to wealthy conservatives has always been the greatest threat to Western civilization ever! Even back in the 60s and 70s when I was young.

  • Downpuppy

    Dreher & DeBoer?!


    Just no.

    • pigmund

      All it needs is to be poured over by Chait for it to be a true turducken of self-righteous, pearl clutching, misplaced moral outrage.

      • humanoid.panda

        Chait is no angel, but he really not in the same league as the other two.

        • Phil Perspective

          He is re: “incivility on campus.”

          • pillsy

            He’s a huge self-righteous dickhead about a couple issues and solid on the rest.

            DeBoer and Dreher are huge self-righteous dickheads about every conceivable issue and solid on the rest.

            • Pseudonym

              I’m sure one or both could figure out how to be huge self-righteous dickheads about inconceivable issues as well. (Obligatory “that word…”)

        • Brien Jackson

          I mean, I don’t agree with Chait on the subject for the most part, but you can at least see a kernel of a principled argument in there. I’m holding out hope he won’t concern troll the idea that protesting a current government office holder is beyond the pale.

          • Dilan Esper

            I’m pretty big on the “anti-PC” thing and I have seen nothing to object to here. The students protested, DeVos still got to speak, there was no violence. Exactly how it should go down.

      • Linnaeus

        Thrown in Conor Friedersdorf for good measure.

    • sigaba

      Was about to say Dreher probably going to have 90 words about Trump and six full window scrolls (portrait mode on a 2k screen) about Campus Riots, complete with 1000 word blockquotes from a Michael Haidt article he read two years ago.

      • Pseudonym

        Do you mean Jonathan Haidt? What’s his deal anyways?

    • ASV

      “Catch Rod & [BONERS] on your weekday commute only on 101.5 WSNK, The Snake!” (hiss) (rattle) (fart sound)

      • Pseudonym

        (fart sound)

        Ah, I see hear they have Jonah Goldberg on today!

      • The Great God Pan

        Broadcasting from Rod’s rural commune, surely, since this time he is really exercising the Benedict Option really for real, though.

        Speaking of which, I am accepting bets on whether, if Rod ever does start his Orthodox-Christians-Only Crunchy-Con commune where the word “gay” only refers to a jubilant and non-aroused emotional state, the results when the shit hits the fan will most closely resemble
        A) “Lord of the Flies”
        B) Jonestown
        C) “The Lottery”

        and whether the shit hits the fan in under a year, over a year or under a month.

    • Frank McCormick

      Erik, we could have used a trigger warning!

  • In case anyone wants to read the future, but in the past, this article by Nate Heller in The New Yorker is about just that.

    • Yeah, that’s the piece I was mocking in the post but I didn’t feel like looking it up

      • Pseudonym

        What’s so objectionable about that New Yorker article?

        The thing I found most troubling was the racial self-segregation of students. Honestly though I’m a straight white guy with an upper-middle-class background and would probably feel pretty out of place myself at, say, a HBCU, and gravitate towards those students with similar backgrounds. Segregation is more damaging by far when it’s enforced by the group in a greater position of power.

        All this is of less immediate importance than Trump’s corruption, but so are the hockey playoffs in the previous thread. Is your point that conservatives are vastly overstating the threat to free speech posed by liberal arts colleges? It seems like a real issue to me, but obviously not an imminent danger to democracy.

        I guess I might just be missing something (which isn’t unusual). You’re a professor. Do you have any personal thoughts or experience with these kinds of things?

        • LeeEsq

          It dealt with the Joy Kacega affair too gently. The woman was a paranoid anti-Semite and the fact that she is of color and nominally on the Left doesn’t justify treating her with kid gloves and words like suggested.

          • Pseudonym

            Ahh. I kind of unconsciously ignored that part because… it did not accord with my understanding of the actual situation. I guess if the rest of the piece is equally accurate that’s, shall we say, problematic.

            But it seems to boil down to the question of whether there’s an objective way to tell if a student is getting PTSD from Antigone or just trying to get out of doing the required reading, something Erik claims happens occasionally on today’s college campuses.

            • LeeEsq

              I actually think that the article was overall very good and describe the current situation on many campuses well. Your right as to what it boils down to.

  • Marci Kiser

    “One of the hallmarks of higher education, and of democracy, is the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree. And while we will undoubtedly disagree at times, I hope we can do so respectfully. Let’s choose to hear each other out.”

    I truly despise this rhetorical dodge, and it only seems to be used when conservative cranks get denied a paycheck.

    Just as with Coulter and Milo and all of the other dishonest shills, this isn’t a conversation. It’s a commencement speech. These kids are paying Betty DeVos for the privilege of being her captive audience. It’s not a debate or an open forum… if Betty DeVos wants to stand in the quad and debate college kids, let her do that. Then maybe she’ll get to converse with and learn from those with whom she disagrees. As it is, they heard her out just as much as she heard them out.

    • CP

      Preach it.

    • Nobdy

      Conservative institutions, of course, NEVER have to invite liberal speakers to campus and, in fact, somewhat frequently have content bans preventing certain positions from being advocated at all, even by students.

      The conservative jiu-jitsu move of demanding that liberal tolerance be used to force people to listen to and respect intolerant or hateful ideas never goes out of fashion. It needs to be resisted more forcefully.

      • Pseudonym

        Liberal institutions believe in a continuing search for the truth, which restrictions on debate or just plain lack of knowledge of others might threaten. Conservative ones believe that the truth was etched in stone thousands of years ago and their job is to preserve it, and free debate threatens to corrupt it.

        The problem is that when the attempts to shut down the hateful and intolerant speech are louder than the attempts to refute it, casual observers might think there’s some truth there that’s being suppressed, and all of us are casual observers about most things.

        In this case, of course, there’s no particular academic value of a school sponsoring the apologia for white supremacy of Milo or Ann Coulter. But their ideas need to not just be publicly rejected but publicly refuted as well.

        • Justin Runia

          Liberal institutions also generally try to serve the public by allowing their facilities to be used for community advocacy groups, which leads to conservative groups booking those spaces to have JAQ-off sessions with various right-wing trolls.

      • Mike G

        This. The proudly intolerant whining that they aren’t receiving sufficient tolerance from the people they openly hate.

    • wengler

      I have more respect for the crazy ‘preachers’ that would yell on the quad at passersby that they were going to hell. They were obnoxious but they weren’t getting paid and when people yelled back they didn’t whine about how their free speech rights were being infringed.

      On the other hand, these Reichwingers want a paycheck, the complete absence of any responsibility for what they say, and blood running on the streets(not their blood of course). That they get old fogies to right and talk endlessly about how all the kids are little anti-free speech commies must make them chuckle on the way to the bank.

    • MAJeff

      Also, it’s a commencement address. When’s the last time one of those broke any kind of intellectual ground?

      • witlesschum

        Mine was given by the school’s men’s basketball coach.

        • Procopius

          Sounds like a good idea to me. That way you don’t have to buy a first-class round trip ticked for him, you don’t have to hire a pink stretch limousine to bring him from the airport, you don’t have to buy twenty cases of some obscure European boutique mineral water, you don’t have to send a messenger to bring a serving of fresh ripe pineapple from the Philippines, all kinds of savings. How much did they pay the billionaire heiress, anyway? And Omarasa?

      • Jeff R.

        I was going to say 1946, but the Iron Curtain speech wasn’t a commencement address.

        • Procopius

          My memory is fuzzy. Wasn’t that 1947?

        • CP

          IIRC, JFK gave a speech at American University that was pretty great.

          But that is indeed the last commencement address I can think of that was actually memorable. That’s something that’s in the back of my mind whenever I hear this kind of controversy – does anyone even remember their commencement addresses? I couldn’t for the life of me tell you what either one of mine was about, except that they were generically supportive and encouraging and not done by raging assholes.

      • DrDick

        Vacuous is generally the best you can hope for.

    • Hogan

      Two politicians are talking, and one stands up and says to the other, “You’re lying,” and the other one says, “I know, but hear me out.”

    • Rugosa

      When the disagreement is over whether 2 + 2 = 4 or 5, I don’t feel compelled to listen respectfully to the person insisting that it’s 5.

  • McAllen

    How dare students of Bethune-Cookman University boo a member of the administration that has said funding historically black schools like their’s might be racist!

    • efgoldman

      How dare students of Bethune-Cookman University boo a member of the administration

      What the fuck was the university administration THINKing when they invited her in the first place?
      This mindless twit is the one who said that the HBCUs were founded to give black kids a choice.
      Yeah, a choice between going to college or doing menial labor the rest of their lives.
      A mind is a terible thing to waste, but DeVos never had one.

      • Phil Perspective

        What the fuck was the university administration THINKing ….

        They’re not. University administrations are never leftist. Have you been paying any attention to Yale at all lately?

        • JustRuss

          Worse than that. With 380 graduates, this is a very small, predominately black college. Getting a feel for how the student body feels about Trump and his cronies shouldn’t be very hard. And yet they decided to honor deVos and force their grads to listen to her. Feels like an FU-power play by the administration to me.

          • DrDick

            I cannot even imagine how the administration would think that one of the strongest enemies of public education and a member of the administration of the most overtly and rabidly racist president in my lifetime would be a good idea.

          • Dilan Esper

            1. Do you folks not have any conception of why a small, probably financially struggling HBCU might want to cultivate a good relationship with the new SecofEd?

            2. I certainly think a lot of these issues can be defused by, for instance, not inviting Ann Coulter, but it’s also worth noting that students don’t ultimately run a university and the administration does. The idea students have that they should have veto power over any speakers they don’t like is delusional. This wasn’t Coulter, this is a cabinet secretary. They had the right to protest, and did. But the administration retains the call, and in general there’s an important educational function in telling students that they aren’t going to get everything they want and they are sometimes going to be placed in situations outside their comfort zone. When they go to work they will have to understand this.

            • davidsmcwilliams

              There’s a clear difference between a university–where the students pay to attend–and the workplace, where employees are paid to attend.

              This administration used the students’ own tuition dollars to hire a speaker whose ignorance of HBCU history is obvious and insulting. They’re right to be upset.

              • Dilan Esper

                Honestly, I really think there’s a failure of education somewhere along the line if people think that education is a pure consumer good where you pay and you get whatever you want.

                People flunk out of colleges. People who “pay” for school flunk out. Now why does that happen?

                It happens because what you are paying for is not the right to run the school. A school is not a democracy. It is selling you two things: (1) a credential and (2) a professional administrated education. That’s it. You don’t think that’s a good deal, don’t spend your money on it. You aren’t required to attend college.

                But if you attend college, you don’t get to control it. The administration gets to do things you won’t like, in its attempt to educate you. And one of the forms that education takes is putting you in uncomfortable situations, because that is a part of vocational training. When your employer brings in the lunch speaker you don’t approve of, you don’t get to shout him down or force your employer to rescind the invitation. You either sit there and listen, or you quit your job. That’s the same deal the university offers you, because you are paying the university to educate you about how the real world works.

                Sorry, students have a right to protest. And that’s important and it happened here and good for the students for doing it. But that’s literally the only right they have. If the administration decides something over their protests, their options are to (1) capitulate or (2) quit school. Because they didn’t pay for the right to run the place, they paid for an education.

        • efgoldman

          Have you been paying any attention to Yale at all lately?

          Ah, Phil? Are you paying attention even a little bit? I didn’t go to an Ivy, but I think I remember seeing somewhere that Yale isn’t a HBCU.

          • sharculese

            I for one an shocked that Phil’s toxic combination of stupidity, ignorance, and self-importance have led him to shriek an invective with no connection to reality.

            Honestly, I think we do a public service by putting up with him here. Can you imagine him taking his act out in public?

          • Also, c’mon, it’s not like the administration has to be “leftist” to think that inviting someone whose life work is impoverishing black people to give a commencement speech at a HBCU might be a bad idea.

            Phil is just incapable of making a comment without some sort of reflexive “what, are you an idiot? open your EYES, SHEEPLE” type remark. It’s kind of sad.

            • Origami Isopod

              Also, c’mon, it’s not like the administration has to be “leftist” to think that inviting someone whose life work is impoverishing black people to give a commencement speech at a HBCU might be a bad idea.

              According to Phil, only leftists are decent human beings. Liberals are all horrible racists, and leftists are entirely free of racism.

          • but I think I remember seeing somewhere that Yale isn’t a HBCU.

            Does it count if a University Historically got its money from Blacks, one way or another?

      • Colin Day

        What the fuck was the university administration THINKing when they invited her in the first place?

        Assumes facts not in evidence.

  • Freddie sure is making a point of mentioning how he is very much in favor of social conservatism being in decline, but…

    LGM has made this point before and I’ll make it again here: commencement speeches have a captive audience. For most members of the audience, this is one of the most important moments in their lives. How fucking dare these scolds act like the graduates don’t have a right to have an opinion — and express it, loudly if necessary — about who should have the honor of the commencement speech.

    I am somewhat sympathetic to arguments that speakers invited onto campus by a student group should have the opportunity to speak without excessive heckling. (This doesn’t apply to someone like Milo whose presence on campus is a threat to students.) I am absolutely not sympathetic to the argument that students who have gone into significant debt and worked hard to earn their degrees should welcome being forced to listen to a speech by someone who wants to destroy their livelihoods and their communities.

    • CP

      This. If you want the “right” to bloviate at me, you better pay for my fucking education.

    • Peterr

      I’d hate to be the chief development person at BCU, or the head of alumni relations. Folks like these spend the spring term trying to get the senior class to start thinking about being generous alums, and the BCU president sent those efforts waaaaay back. I can easily imaging them getting variations of “After what happened at commencement, I have no intention of giving anything to BCU, at least until the president is gone.”

      The class of 2017 may be the least likely to donate to their school of any in BCU history if the school does anything to make this more than a one day story.

    • sharculese

      What your argument misses is that captive audiences you get to scream you opinions at is something Freddie is in favor of, because he wants one for himself.

      • I didn’t mark it clearly enough but I was making two separate points: Freddie protesteth too much about how glad he is about social conservatism being on the outs, and then the next two paragraphs. I should have had some sort of transitional remark.

  • BiloSagdiyev

    “Be of service, kids! Be it to the Koch brothers, a K Street lobbying firm, capital, or Lucifer!”

  • Peterr

    Even when [Freddie’s] wrong — and from my conservative point of view, that’s often

    Erik, why must you make me admit I agree with Rod Dreher?

  • gogiggs

    I haven’t clicked, but it’s Freddie, right?

    • Shalimar

      Dreher approvingly linking to Freddie, yeah.

  • NewishLawyer

    I have to admit that there is an interesting art in picking commencement speakers that is tricky.

    When I was a senior in college, my senior project as a drama major was working on a production of Angels in America.

    Somehow and somewhere, some people at the college decided that it would be a great idea if Tony Kushner was our commencement speaker. This was pretty cool for me but I wonder if other people thought “Why does Tony Kushner get to be our commencement speaker just because the Drama Department did a production of Angels in America?” Though he gave a really good speech.

    Now I want Tony Kushner to do a play about Donald Trump and Roy Cohen meeting in the after life. He would write the hell out of it.

    • N__B

      Eh, it’s fine. I had Gary Trudeau at my commencement for no better reason than that by going to the ‘Tute he could easily visit his family in Glens Falls.

      • efgoldman

        I had Gary Trudeau at my commencement for no better reason than that by going to the ‘Tute he could easily visit his family in Glens Falls.

        I didn’t go to my commencement for the simple reasons that 1) I didn’t know I had enough credits to graduate and b) I was in basic training.
        Anyway, as a band member I had already been to more commencements than anyone without doctoral robes should ever have to attend.
        Thirty years later, I broadcast my U’s graduation for the radio station. The speaker was H Ross Perot, a personal friend of the U president. Temp in the 90s, our broadcast position in the middle of an astroturf field. It was freaking endless torture. More whining than in day care.
        Best commencement address I ever attended was one of mrs efg’s from Massasoit Community College in MA – Dr Tim Johnson, medical authority for decades on Boston’s channel 5.

        • I’ve never seen a commencement speech I thought was worthwhile. It’s a mostly useless exercise. My employer did get Sonia Sotormayor last year, which was awesome, but it’s not like the speech was all that worthwhile. I will say that it was better than my brother’s college graduation commencement, which was John Leo blathering on about the glories of western civilization.

          • efgoldman

            I’ve never seen a commencement speech I thought was worthwhile.

            Do you now have to wear one of those hot, heavy robes with the colored sash and silly “medieval” hat?

            • rm

              The costume is one of the few good things about sitting through a zillion graduations. At least we look like we belong at Hogwarts.

          • JustRuss

            My employer employed Michelle Obama’s brother for a while, so we got FLOTUS one year. That was awesome.

          • dmsilev

            My college class had Al Gore. Just before the speech, people distributed “Buzzword Bingo” cards (“Information Superhighway”, stuff like that. Mid 90’s buzzwords…) and we were supposed to hold them up if we made bingo. Someone tipped off Gore ahead of time though; he made a crack about “what, did I just say a buzzword?” after some getting some applause for something or another, and as near as anyone could tell, nobody made bingo. I have this vision of some poor staff speechwriter frantically editing out words 2 minutes before the speech…

            • Mike G

              We had the workplace version of that, “Bullshit Bingo”, when I worked for an IT company. I hit bingo single times but never had the courage to shout out the required “Bullshit!” in a meeting. It was a fear-driven, authoritarian place. Not all of IT is the groovy foosball and beer bashes culture you see in Silicon Valley.

              • Ramon A. Clef

                Not all of IT is the groovy foosball and beer bashes culture you see in Silicon Valley.

                Speaking as someone who has worked for a Silicon Valley software company, the foosball and beer bash culture is only there to make sure you don’t recognize that you don’t have a life outside of work.

                Some people might say you can drop the clause “you don’t recognize” out of that sentence.

          • ScottK

            I had Click and Clack from Car Talk, so it was at least funny. And they’re both MIT alums so they understood the students. But I can’t say there was really any part of it that stuck with me.

            A few years before the speaker was the Aga Khan, who I’m sure is a fine gentleman, but next to nobody there gave a darn about him.

            • rm

              Our college president left to work for the Aga Khan. Then the guy got fired for having an affair with his secretary. At the college, he had often mixed up the names of his wife and secretary in public. That’s all I know about the Aga Khan. Don’t commit adultery while working for him.

          • Dr. Acula

            I don’t have the foggiest idea who the commencement speaker for my class was, back in 1988. I can’t remember anything about it at all.

            • eh

              Just say Cybill Shepherd.

              • Dennis Orphen

                Telly Savalas.

                • The Dark God of Time

                  Bob Hope, although it was a few years after I graduated.

          • ColBatGuano

            John Leo blathering


          • catbutler

            I had to sit through Strom Thurmond when my brother graduated from the Citadel. Didn’t really understand a word of it, but it was excruciating – May in South Carolina.
            The next year I got Dr. J (Julius Erving for the youngsters). Refreshing by comparison I’d say. Thanks Temple.

            • catbutler

              I feel I should add that I don’t remember a word Dr. J said either, but in his defense it was in 1983.

        • Linnaeus

          Dr Tim Johnson, medical authority for decades on Boston’s channel 5.

          And, if I recall my mornings before going off to school correctly, on Good Morning America as well.

        • MAJeff

          I don’t remember my BA/MA commencement speakers, but PhD. was Ken Burns. Can’t remember a word, only that I was in the front row.

          They should kill the whole racket, the honorary doctorates, the speaking feeds, the whole bullshit exercise needs to die.

      • royko

        Mine was Bill Cosby. Sooo..yeah…

      • LeeEsq

        My college had Goldie Hawn, which is something like a platonic idea. Famous but not controversial enough to offend anybody. Unless your going to school that is definitely liberal or definitely conservative, the safe choice is somebody as famous as possible that will give a vaguely inspiring speech but not say anything political.

      • mds

        We got Governor John Ashcroft. Which was a useful lesson, I suppose, because students didn’t audibly heckle during the speech that I recall, but damn was there a lot of coathanger iconography.

        • Dennis Orphen

          Your administration must have thought they were getting Richard Ashcroft but someone screwed up.

    • They should get rid of commencement speakers entirely. Barring that, they should always pick alumni. Barring that, they should at least leave the decision to the graduating student body.

      • Pseudonym

        Barring that, they should have an open bar.

      • LeeEsq

        You might hate the ritual of the commencement speaker and others might agree with you but there plenty of people who love the rituals associated with college graduation. They would feel somewhat robbed if they didn’t get them.

        • They’ll live.

        • Kalil

          You might hate the ritual of the commencement speaker hazing and others might agree with you but there plenty of people who love the rituals associated with college graduation equator crossings. They would feel somewhat robbed if they didn’t get them raw sausage shoved into their mouths while blindfolded.

          Sound hyperbolic? This remains a live debate at my alma mater (their wiki page has been scrubbed – aparently they finally hired a competent PR person – but it is mentioned here). Needless to say, I have some problems with that line of argument.

          • wjts

            It does sound hyperbolic, because sitting and listening to a dull speech for 20-45 minutes is not really comparable to getting raw sausage shoved into your mouth against your will.

            • Kalil

              I don’t have any particular feelings on commencement speeches, but I have very strong feelings about the argument that ‘some people love those rituals, so other peoples distaste is irrelevant/overruled’. It’s a bad argument used to excuse a lot of bad shit.

        • sibusisodan

          Do people really love the ritual of having a commencement speaker, or do they really like having some rituals?

          Given that most graduation ceremonies are modern inventions retconned to give the appearance of tradition – even for universities with ancient foundations! – it seems bizarre to argue that the precise ritual is important.

        • efgoldman

          there plenty of people who love the rituals associated with college graduation.

          There are people who love Brussels sprouts and Southern Comfort (no, not together) too. Doesn’t mean I have to even keep them in the house.
          The main reason for a lot of the honorary degrees is in return for major contributions, past, present, or future.
          Let’s see… not counting all the high school graduations I played in the band for, I’ve been to:
          Northeastern U in the early 60s (hooked into playing in the band – several thousand graduates walked up to the stage individually)
          Above-mentioned graduation at my U, (not mine) which I broadcast
          mrs efg’s Associates
          mrs efg’s Bachelor’s
          Daughters undergrad
          Daughter’s Masters’
          Since granddaughter is only four, it’s unlikely I’ll be around for her high school or colllege

          • N__B

            Think of all the brains at granddaughter’s graduation for Zombie EFG to eat!

        • Dennis Orphen

          They’re called parent$. (the dollar sign was a mistake but it had good curb feel, so I kept it).

        • so-in-so

          That’s easy – have the commencement, a 20 minute intermission, then those who wish can return to hear the speaker. Both sides should be happy (unless the speakers are unhappy about addressing mostly empty seats).

          Which makes the point, I suppose, that the ritual is more for the benefit of the speaker and the school (in terms of currying favor) than the graduates.

        • Gabriel Ratchet

          Eh. My college has traditionally eschewed them. Admittedly it’s been around for over 250 years, so it’s had enough time to build up a suitable encrustation of pomp and ceremony so that nobody really misses them.

    • Katya

      There were protests against the commencement speaker when I graduated from Notre Dame, on the grounds that he wasn’t prestigious or important enough. We had *Presidents* in the past, after all, and this guy was, at the time, the lieutenant governor of Indiana. I, personally, did not care who gave the speech, because I fully expected it to be boring cliche.

      And you know what? His speech was awesome: it was personal, he had a real connection to the university and the town, and it was grounded and real and funny. And he was surely more excited to give the speech than any big-name politician would have been.

    • D.N. Nation

      First commencement speaker: CEO of Pepsi
      Second commencement speaker: Sonny Perdue

      Don’t remember a single thing from either of them.

  • nemdam

    If anyone thought Jeff B at the Decision Desk HQ was someone worth taking seriously, disabuse yourself of that notion immediately. This small Twitter thread he wrote speaks for itself.


    Here are his tweets if you don’t want to click because it is the most epic conservative hackery I have seen this week. Yes, this week of all weeks.

    The funniest thing about this tweet is that, taking the long (generational) view, he’s right.

    Replying to
    Mazel Tov Cocktail account @AdamSerwer
    Don’t get distracted. The big threat to democracy right now is lefty college students protesting conservative speakers.

    Generational shifts in free speech attitudes are far more dangerous to civic norms than gyrations of an idiot Prez.

    However bad you think Trump is, he’s gone in 3.7 years (7.7 at the most). You people have no sense of the long game.

    Does Donald Trump look to you like he’s on his way to any sort of lasting legislative legacy? That would require competence.
    4 replies 1 retweet 6 likes

    (In response to a jury convicted someone for laughing at Jeff Sessions)
    Obviously this is a grotesquerie. But it is not the same as a massive generational shift in attitudes about free speech among the youth.

    He is sincerely arguing that college students protesting conservative speakers is a bigger threat to our country than Trump firing James Comey and the whole Trump presidency because he takes the “long view” on the erosion of norms. And he’s supposed to be one of the “sane” conservatives. GEE I WONDER WHY THE REPUBLICAN BASE CONTINUES TO SUPPORT TRUMP?

    • Nobdy

      College students have always protested speech they don’t like and tried to shut it down.

      How is it that people can get worked up about the “threat” of something that’s been going on for centuries like this?

      “The youths are having sex. The youths don’t respect our traditions. The youths like different music and clothing than I did when I was a youth. The youths are indolent, whiling away their days in idle pleasure instead of being industrious like I was.”

      Is there like a switch that flips when you turn 40 or something that makes you forget what it was like to be young and not able to empathize with current young people? Not looking forward to that.

      • Johnny sycophant

        Yes some people seem to have a switch. I noticed it most acutely when I had kids, if I stop and think I can sorta recall what I thought at my kids ages, and how I saw the world. I’ve noticed that many (not all) parents, even many younger than me simply can’t or won’t do that.

        You see with grandparents sometimes that even if they can’t recall being a child, they can see how their grandchildren behave just like their now adult children did.

        But yeah, many folks just cannot seem to recall how they looked at the world before turning 25….

        • nemdam

          I know people who flipped the switch almost immediately after they graduated college. Once they graduated and got a job, suddenly they were all concerned with how the kids were acting as if they weren’t doing the same thing like 2 years earlier. I would rarely miss an opportunity to mock them for saying this.

      • Pseudonym

        College students have always protested speech they don’t like and tried to shut it down.


        A. This also is hardly specific to college students.

        B. They’re not supposed to be right about everything. That’s why they’re students.

        From my perspective it seems like college students are underestimating the dangers of tribalism, but that’s not something conservatives are going to be worried about when they see tribalism as a virtue; they’re just upset that some other tribes are doing it now too.

    • gyrfalcon

      Generational ʃhiftʃ in attitudeʃ toward African ʃlavery are far more dangerous to civic norms than closeness between ʃupreme Court juriʃtʃ and a Preʃident-Elect.

      However bad you think Buchanan to be, he ʃhall be gone in 4 yearʃ, or 8 at the moʃt. You people have no ʃenʃe of the long game.

    • Not only did I not think Jeff B at the Decision Desk HQ was someone worth taking seriously, I don’t know who he is or what that is.

    • Chetsky

      Dayyum. I started reading the tweets (I’ll add my thanks for puttin’ ’em all in one place), and thought “oh, comedy stylings, cool” only to continue reading your comment, and realized that he was being serious. What’s it called? “Poe’s Law”?

    • Nick056

      I have no clue why this fucking clown gets treated like a Reasonable Conservative.

      He linked to an NRO piece today as really fair-minded. The piece says Democrats had been calling for Comey’s firing and provided as an example Harry Reid Nancy Pelosi Colbert’s audience. The piece also went on at some length to say the FBI was doing a counterintelligence investigation, not a criminal investigation, although Comey specifically said the investigation had a criminal component and although counterintelligence investigations inherently explore issues of espionage.

      But that’s a fair piece. Dude’s a fucking hack who talks about being for borders and culture.

      • Today is the first time I ever heard of this guy. Sounds like a tool.

    • Procopius

      See, this is one of the reasons I don’t do Twitter.

  • Nobdy

    the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree. And while we will undoubtedly disagree at times, I hope we can do so respectfully. Let’s choose to hear each other out.

    DeVos never listens to anybody who doesn’t already agree with her. When conservatives say “we need to be able to converse respectfully” they mean something just a little bit different.

    If she were brave enough to go on a panel with someone who strongly disagrees with her perspective on education and let the students watch that interaction then they might actually get something of value out of the whole thing.

    Also, the racial component of this whole thing is striking and disgusting. Trump is talking about shutting down funding of HBCUs while the secretary of education is going down to one to tell its students to be more docile? It’s grotesque.

  • Linnaeus

    Meanwhile, she and her husband work to end public pensions in Michigan (which includes a lot of teachers) and convert them to 401(k)s that no one can actually retire on.

    Betsy and Dick DeVos can go to hell and stay there.

    • They probably don’t want her down there. They’re afraid she’ll take over.

      • Nobdy

        She’ll break the demons union and demand charter torture chambers. She’ll create a voucher system for entrails pulling, only instead of spooling your guts out they just read Ayn Rand to you.

        All things considered I’d prefer the gut spooling.

      • tsam

        Watch out, grizzled bears. Betsy and her gun are on the way.

  • pillsy

    It’s almost as if right-wing handwringing about “free speech” on campus is really just whining about college students refusing to tongue the asshole of the GOP meat puppet du jour.

  • veleda_k

    Obviously, booing DeVos wasn’t ideal. Ideal would have been pelting her with rotten produce, but that’s considered assault, despite being the only rational response to most of this administration, so booing is the next best thing.

    • Origami Isopod

      Ideal would have been pelting her with rotten produce

      I strongly object. “Ideal” would have been hosing her down with liquefied pig shit.

  • zackthedog

    B-CU, more specific President Jackson, is already in hot water for awarding Governor Rick Scott the school’s highest award in 2015. Jackson seems to feel that doing ANYTHING to raise money and/or gain political influence for the school is a-okay.

  • zackthedog

    OTOH, I guess you could flatter the honkies and take their money…

    • LosGatosCA

      I can agree with that.

      If the assorted jackasses who think they are entitled to a captive audience believe in free markets then I think the minimum contribution FROM them should be formula driven:

      Graduating student count * hours of speechifying * prevailing wage at local McDonalds

      Ex. 5000 UW graduates * .75 (45 minutes) * $15 = $56K.

      Of course if they want to pay less they can dial back the bullshit to 15 minutes and get it under $20K which would be greatly appreciated by the captives I’m sure.

    • I thought “honkie” went out of fashion with disco and polyester?

      • zackthedog

        Your handle is from a 1964 movie, and you’re dinging me for using “honkie”?

        • Warren Terra

          The judges would also have accepted a reply of “Honkie, please”.

          • zackthedog


        • ArchTeryx

          He’s got a very good reason for using that handle, and frankly can ding people using ‘honkie’ whenever he likes.

  • LosGatosCA

    Fundamentally I don’t get the whole concept that despite having spent their money and 4-10 years of their lives (depending on degrees, academic success, etc) to get to this point that university administrations think that the graduation ceremony is supposed to be one more power play against the student body on their way out the door.

    The graduates should have 100% control of the event within reasonable expectations of decorum and decency that do not include having to listen to grifters, self serving politicians, war criminals, or other assorted jackasses who think they are entitled to captive audiences to stroke their egos.

    It’s pretty amazing to me that people even bother to attend them. I went to my undergrad graduation because my parents were excited about it enough that they bought every freaking sappy crap offer the school sent in the mail and my mother paid my outstanding parking tickets so I could get my diploma, as if I gave a shit. Went on a vacation before the second graduation which was much more fun and started my job while my classmates were listening to some blowhards in a circle jerk.

    • libarbarian

      my mother paid my outstanding parking tickets so I could get my diploma

      Just like a liberal.

      I paid for my diploma with my own BOOTSTRAPS!

    • Dilan Esper

      The consumer model of education isn’t correct. The students are paying for a credential and a professionally administered education, not to get exactly what they want.

  • Warren Terra

    So, I was curious: was Trump giving any addresses this year? Was Obama? Either Obama?

    As far as I can tell, both Barack and Michelle are taking the year off from commencement addresses (Barack gave three a year in office, one of them to a service academy). Maybe they’re tired of giving them, maybe they didn’t want to upstage a certain shaved orangutan.

    Trump is giving two: the Coast Guard Academy, and Liberty University. Even there, there’s unrest: a Fox News article (!) quotes a student saying that a commencement speaker should be someone the graduating student can respect, and Trump isn’t.

    • wjts

      (Barack gave three a year in office, one of them to a service academy).

      That’s been a presidential tradition for decades – one address at a state school, one at a private school, one at a service academy. Bill Clinton spoke at my graduation, but because the tradition at Chicago is that the commencement address is always given by a current faculty member, the university made it very clear that the commencement speaker was the woman from the biology department. The President was just some guy who happened to be making a speech while all the soon-to-be graduates happened to be sitting on the quad in caps and gowns.

      • Warren Terra

        A state school? Can you imagine Trump giving a speech on the campus of a college that’s not a rigidly controlled conservative hothouse?

        • Nobdy

          [Insert joke about how Trump might give a speech at his Alma Mater, which is a state school.]

          Surely there are sufficiently conservative universities in some deep red state somewhere. Isn’t Texas A&M potentially Trump friendly?

          • wjts

            I could see that: “Boy, I sure am excited – I heard the graduation speaker’s gonna be a turnip!”

          • Pseudonym

            [Insert joke about how Trump might give a speech at his Alma Mater, which is a state school.]

            Wharton? Fordham? Trump University?

            I’m sure he’s welcome to give the commencement address at Московский государственный университет.

          • Warren Terra

            Trump might give a speech at his Alma Mater, which is a state school.

            Trump went to Fordham, which is private, before transferring to Penn, which is also private. Before college he was kicked out of a private prep school and went to a private military academy. So far as I know, he’s enrolled at exactly the number of public institutions you’d expect him to, ie zero.

            • wjts

              No, I’m pretty sure the University of Pennsylvania is a state school. If it weren’t, it would have a different name.

              • Warren Terra

                You forgot the sarcasm font. Though, fontwise, after what Pseudonym did above it might be time for the rest of us to give up.

              • Pseudonym


              • mds

                Yeah, I mean, the University of Rochester is a state school, so why wouldn’t the University of Pennsylvania be?

          • Warren Terra

            Surely there are sufficiently conservative universities in some deep red state somewhere. Isn’t Texas A&M potentially Trump friendly?

            I suppose it would be karmically correct if there were someplace equal and opposite to Evergreen State College, but I find it hard to imagine.

            • Chetsky

              TAMU’s student body prez, ISTR, is a card-carrying member of Teh Ghey.

  • Merkwürdigliebe

    college students being mean to right-wing extremists.

    The legitimacy of the ~boycott is premised on the idea that DeVos is some kind of an extremist. She is not. She is an unqualified plutocrat who bought her way to politics (with someone else’s money, if I remember correctly) and promotes education policies Democrats disagree with. That’s not the same thing as an extremist. I would really reserve this treatment for Sessions et al.

    • Chetsky

      Sorry, Joe “You Lie” Wilson sowed the seeds. This is just the bitter harvest. I could have adduced any of a gazilion examples (shirley sherrod? emails? let’s keep going!) The modern R party is -all- extremists. Anybody who’s complicit in this, is a white supremacist and a fascist. And they deserve to be drummed out of polite society.

      • Merkwürdigliebe

        One thing that really bothered me during the Obama presidency was the sense of a widespread Republican rejection of the basic legitimacy of the idea that a Democrat might be ruling the country.

        Now that the sentiment is fully returned, you should all just agree what time to meet at Bull Run creek.

        • Woodrowfan

          Give yourself lots of time to get there. I 66 will be backed up for miles

        • Origami Isopod


    • rea

      “What can we do at commencement to help prepare our students for the real world?” ponders the University administration. “Oh, I know, we’ll bring in someone who has accomplished nothing other than inheriting billions from her dad and dad-in-law to yell idiocies at them! It will be just like a workplace!”

    • sibusisodan

      She is extreme in precisely the same ways most other appointees in this administration are extreme:

      – distance from fitness for office: extreme
      – distance from belief in the normative role of her office: extreme
      – distance from belief in the legitimacy of political process and/or opposition: extreme

      She is the symptom rather than the cause of much of this extremism. But just because she has not personally done/said [line-crossing thing], you can’t then conclude that she shares different goals from those who have.

      • Merkwürdigliebe

        – distance from belief in the legitimacy of political process and/or opposition: extreme

        So, something like you are doing now?

        She hasn’t expressed any opinion that lies outside of what is the current spectrum of acceptable political disagreement. So she should be disagreed with and criticized, not excommunicated.

        • sibusisodan

          So, something like you are doing now?


          Devos has treated being interviewed by the press, being held to account, being protested, as being somewhat out of bounds.

          That view may well be shared by her political party. It is not mainstream in any useful sense of the word.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      I consider dismantling public education and allowing more giant leeches to attach themselves to the tax base to be pretty damned extreme.

      • Merkwürdigliebe

        Then that’s a big part of the problem. A call to re-segregate schools would be extreme. A call from a Republican to have the private sector play a larger role in education is… I mean, what else did you expect?

    • Redwood Rhiadra

      Forcing schools to teach creationism is extremist. Eliminating public schools entirely is extremist. These are positions that Secretary DeVos has PERSONALLY advocated. And that’s just on education.

      The DeVos and Prince families are religious fanatics who have spent the last century dedicated to the goal of turning the United States into a Christian Theocracy. They’re not *merely* “unqualified plutocrats”.

  • janitor_of_lunacy

    My Catholic High School (in Oklahoma) had progressive journalistic gadfly Frosty Troy. At Cornell, as per long-standing tradition (which, IIRC, has unfortunately changed), the University President (Frank Rhodes) gave the commencement address. We did have an outside speaker at the convocation in the chapel, but I don’t remember who it was, and it was totally optional.

  • Bitter Scribe

    I await the inevitable New Yorker article about how college students unwilling to tolerate extremists on their campus is an existential threat to the republic.

    Any reason you’re picking on the New Yorker in particular here?

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