Spring is upon us and that can only mean one thing if you’re an observer of higher education—it’s commencement season. Normally, this would be a time of excitement, hope, and anticipation, but not anymore. Instead, it’s time for students to make a big stink about whoever was named as their commencement speaker and try to get them disinvited before the big day arrives. Think of it as a new kind of graduation ritual for the millennial generation.
To kick off the season, let’s look at a one of the biggest names in U.S. politics—Vice President Mike Pence. Once upon a time, students would have been honored to have a sitting Vice President speak at their graduation ceremony. Even students who disagreed with a V.P.’s politics could understand the prestige it signaled about their school. But not in the year 2017.
Instead, some students at Notre Dame are claiming that Pence’s presence will make them feel “unsafe,” prompting the hashtag #NotMyCommencementSpeaker. One graduating senior, Immane Mondane, told the college’s newspaper,
“For me personally, [Pence] represents the larger Trump administration. His administration represents something, and for many people on our campus, it makes them feel unsafe to have someone who openly is offensive but also demeaning of their humanity and of their life and of their identity.”
Other groups on campus are also protesting the selection of the Vice President, including the Diversity Council and the College Democrats.
Pence is just the latest in a long line of commencement speakers whom students and faculty have found unworthy. While the most notable disinvited have been former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Ayaan Hirsi Ali (an outspoken critic of Islam and advocate for women’s rights), and the director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, there are many more every year.
It should come as no surprise then, that this year, the top 100 universities have chosen significantly more Democratic politicians and supporters of Hillary Clinton than Republicans.
At Notre Dame, the protests are part of an overwrought reaction to Donald Trump’s election among college students. After Trump’s election, if you recall, students were allegedly so upset that they were unable to attend classes the next day. Some professors even made exams scheduled for the day after election day optional to accommodate those grieving the election results.
College students are being coddled in universities and taught that they should not have to be exposed to any idea or person with whom they disagree. Being confronted with either one causes them to feel “unsafe”, an absurd claim for anyone who has ever been in any kind of truly threatening situation.
But it’s more than just coddling. Universities, as the heart of the progressive movement, are teaching students that the most valuable thing is to be an injured party and to have a grievance. Not only will this gain a student attention, it also gives them a sense of purpose. This is the modus operandi of the progressive movement—create protected classes in order to lodge grievances in an effort to gain power.
For now, it looks like school is out and these college students, at least, have learned the lesson.