University of North Texas students outraged with Republican commencement speaker
Students at the University of North Texas are outraged with the school’s chosen commencement speaker for next month’s graduation and more than 2,400 students have signed a petition to have him replaced.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) is set to speak at the ceremony in May, but students who have signed the petition argue that he is unfit to speak because they disagree with his political stances.
Kimberly Williams, a student who signed the petition, wrote that, “[h]e is not the appropriate person to lead our young leaders into the world,” and continued on to list specific incidents of his alleged anti-feminism.
Allyson Nophsker said, “I'm signing because I want to attend my own graduation ceremony, but cannot due to my moral disagreements with Abbot's [sic] policies.”
The petition reads:
“The University of North Texas’ student body is made up of students from all walks of life. Therefore, it is pivotal that our keynote speaker be someone who reflects not only our student population but our views on equality and representation. Governor Abbott is an advocate for immigration reform, border patrol, and anti-equal marriage laws. This does not align the spirit of the University of North Texas which prides itself in providing equal opportunities for their students. While Governor Abbott's story is inspirational, his views on inequality cannot be overshadowed by this. Our Mean Green Pride comes from being heard and respected. Which is why we ask University President Neal Smatresk to find a new keynote speaker for graduation.”
Libby Goins, a 2013 graduate of UNT, told Campus Reform that she “absolutely” supported Abbott as the commencement speaker, “not just because of his political views— [but because] he’s the governor of the state.”
“It’s an honor for UNT to have any governor visit their campus,” Goins said. “He is congratulating them on their accomplishments,” and “doing UNT a favor.”
Goins said the petition is disrespectful and childish and that the students should be ashamed. According to Goins, students weren’t upset when liberal public figures like Wendy Davis or Ellen Degeneres spoke on campus at past events.
“You wouldn’t have this disrespect at UT Austin, Texas A&M, or Texas Tech,” she said.
According to the Houston Chronicle, University President Neal Smatresk would not budge on the school’s selection.
"He's a new governor, he's supportive of higher education. Why wouldn't we want to celebrate the success of our institution in its 125th year with him?" Smatresk said.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BethanySalgado