Yesterday’s issue of The Student Life contained an open letter, signed by twenty-eight Scripps faculty members, criticizing the selection of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to deliver the commencement speech at Scripps College this May.
“As concerned Scripps faculty members, we are outraged at the selection of Madeleine Albright as the 2016 Commencement speaker and will not participate in this year’s graduation ceremony,” the professors write. “Our opposition to her speaking at commencement, however, has to do with her record during her service as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and U.S. Secretary of State.”
The professors condemn Albright for supporting sanctions on Iraq, for removing UN troops from Rwanda (Albright has stated, “My deepest regret from my years in public service is the failure of the United States and the international community to act sooner to halt these crimes), and for advocating for the U.S. bombing of Yugoslavia.
The letter adds that, “As a member of the Clinton administration, Albright was crucial in the crafting of ‘Plan Colombia,’ which funneled billions of dollars in aid to the country, 80 percent of which took the form of military aid to security forces, during a time when those forces were linked to right-wing paramilitary organizations.”
The faculty members also oppose having Albright speak at graduation because they don’t feel she’s done enough over the course of her career that is in ideological accordance with the demands Scripps students came up with last semester to encourage “unlearning.”
“The selection of Albright as the 2016 Commencement speaker runs counter to the spirit of student activism during fall 2015, which resulted in the demand to address institutional racism, among other forms of barred access,” the professors write. “As a women’s liberal arts college, we should promote the advancement of women and transgender peoples broadly and not simply emulate and celebrate those individuals who participate in U.S. state power and wield its violence. Representing the category of ‘woman’ in this way evacuates feminism of its anti-racist, anti-paternalistic, and anti-imperialist potential to address those lives that are systematically made vulnerable to sickness and death.”
The professors conclude their email by demanding they be included in the commencement speaker selection process rather than leaving that decision up to students. “With respect to the process for commencement speaker selection, it is our understanding that the selection is currently left in the hands of the senior class leadership with no input from faculty or other community members,” the letter states. “Because the commencement speaker is representative not only of the current senior class but also of the broader Scripps community, the process of selection should be reconsidered to better reflect Scripps values and commitments. In consideration of Scripps values and of our commitments to students and the institution, we will not be walking in graduation this year in protest of Albright’s presence.”