Letters to the Editor: Seniors Criticize Commencement Speaker Selection



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I find it sad and insulting that The University of California, world renown for its political prowess and academic excellence, has chosen Jonny Moseley as this year's commencement speaker ("Gold Medalist Set to Deliver Commencement Address," April 26). The 26-year-old Moseley, a one-time Olympic gold medalist, has done little with his athletic fame other than aid in the creation of a Jonny Moseley MadTrix video game.

If it were crucial for the selection committee to depart from the political speaker theme of the past few years by inviting an athlete to speak at commencement, they should have considered someone with a greater social and charitable presence. Lance Armstrong is a perfect example of such an athlete. He is more than just a three-time Tour de France champion: He is a cancer survivor, charity founder and loving father. He offers a much richer message than Jonny Moseley could ever hope to convey.

In addition to the fact that Moseley has not used his fame to positively contribute to society, he has yet to complete a college degree. Instead, he has focused on perfecting his famed "dinner roll" move. Cal graduates work hard for their degrees, enduring many sleepless nights and endless hours in the library, and to invite a speaker who is neither a charitable role model nor a college graduate undermines the value of our education. If the message of achieving your dreams is what the committee hopes to convey, they should have invited one of the many Olympic athlete students here at UC Berkeley. At least these athletes also convey the importance of significant academic as well as athletic achievements and dedication.

The selection committee claims they chose Moseley because "We didn't want someone who would be divisive." This is absurd. UC Berkeley is a place full of vigor, full of life, and full of opinions. If the committee is so determined to ignore the university's tradition of supporting open discourse and free speech, they should at least invite someone who is a social or academic role model.

Janine Pierce

UC Berkeley student

Inviting Jonny Moseley to be the commencement speaker insults the intelligence of all the students at UC Berkeley.

Tam Ma

UC Berkeley student

Suspending SJP

News reports of a decision by UC Berkeley to temporarily suspend recognition of Students for Justice in Palestine as a registered student group following an unlawful occupation of a building where classes were being held have lead to confusion over the free speech rights of this group on campus ("Students Arrested During Protest May Be Suspended," April 26). It is important to clarify that suspension of the group's status as a registered student group does not preclude it from free speech activities afforded all students. It does, however, limit the group's use of university resources, such as reserving classrooms for meetings and the Sproul Hall steps for scheduled events.

All registered student groups agree to abide by regulations governing the use of campus facilities. The campus may suspend a group's privileges when its members violate the rules or when the campus has reason to believe a student group will continue to undertake activities that will disrupt the academic mission.

Free speech is a cherished tradition at UC Berkeley. As Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl said on April 8, the day before the building occupation:

"This university has a proud history in the defense of free expression. It is our responsibility to provide a neutral forum for individuals and groups to advocate their cause ... Most importantly, it is our responsibility to protect the rights of all members of the campus community to pursue their reason for being here-the work of teaching, learning, and research-uninterrupted by anyone."

Karen Kenney

UC Berkeley Dean of Students

I have to disagree with your editorial on Friday ("Consequences: The Wheeler 41 Face the Jury," April 26) and with Bryan Ritchie's column on Monday ("Numbers and Noise," April 29), both of which argued that Chancellor Berdahl was right to disband Students for Justice in Palestine as well as seek action against the students involved.

To me they smack of the university seeking to stifle speech and expression on campus. While I agree that it is disruptive to storm a building during classes, does that merit the enforced closure of a student group? Or the expulsion of the students who carried out the protest? These tactics are reminiscent of the hard-line taken toward student demonstrators in the late '60s, tactics designed to quell the protests and silence student dissent instead of simply limiting their expression.

The fact that the university disbanded the student group is very disturbing. While we can disagree with their tactics, Students for Justice in Palestine certainly should have the right to exist and use the same campus facilities to hold their meetings that any other student group has. I cannot see how closing that group achieves anything other than silencing their opinions and working to prevent them from advocating their cause among the UC Berkeley student community.

The Chancellor's office is very obviously looking to set a precedent for further restriction of the rights of students to organize and protest, and the way they have reacted to the Wheeler Hall protest shows their desire to return Cal into a pre-1964 era, negating 40 years of hard-won free speech rights on campus.

I do not condone the protesters' tactics. But I see no reason to silence them totally and utterly as a result of what they did. We should be very wary whenever authority seeks to limit free expression, especially when we feel they might have a legitimate reason to do so.

Robert Cruickshank

UC Berkeley alumnus

Congratulations to The Daily Californian for actually growing a notochord this year and standing up for America, freedom, and most importantly, reality. Special thanks go to the senior editorial staff which stood up for the rights of students to actually be students here at UC Berkeley ("Consequences: The Wheeler 41 Face the Jury," April 26). Individuals who disrupt our classes should be held accountable for their actions. It isn't free speech to prevent students from learning. If, for example, the Cal Republicans took over a building and prevented students from learning, would there even be a doubt in anyone's mind about consequences? Now, I'm flexible, and would be perfectly willing to support the Students for Justice in Palestine's quest to disrupt the workings of this university if they were equally willing to compensate my (out-of-state) tuition. Otherwise, it's time to remember that civil disobedience is not supposed to be devoid of consequences. Reality is not optional.

Justin Azadivar

UC Berkeley student

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