Multiple schools disinvited their commencement speakers following student protests this year, and now the speakers are fighting back. Some faculty and students at Haverford College objected to the selection of Robert J. Birgeneau, former chancellor of the University of California Berkeley, due to a 2011 incident in which police used force to shut down a student Occupy protest. Birgeneau withdrew after protesters gave him a list of demands. On Sunday at Haverford, speaker William Bowen, a former president of Princeton University, admonished the protesters in the audience. “In my view, they should have encouraged him to come and engage in a genuine discussion, not to come, tail between his legs, to respond to an indictment that a self-chosen jury had reached without hearing counter-arguments,” he said.
Bowen didn’t take a position on the Berkeley incident, and criticized Birgeneau too (while making another dig at Haverford protesters). “I think that Birgeneau, in turn, responded intemperately, failing to make proper allowance for the immature, and, yes, arrogant inclinations of some protestors,” Bowen said. “Aggravated as he had every right to be, I think he should be with us today.”
In related news, on Friday Michelle Obama spoke in Kansas at an event marking the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Topeka Board of Education after Topeka high school seniors complained that they didn’t want her at their graduation. The first lady refrained from calling them “insolent little twerps,” but she was thinking it the entire time.