William Bowen, former president of Princeton University and a nationally respected higher education leader, in his commencement address Sunday at Haverford College in Pennsylvania blasted student as “immature” and “arrogant” for protesting another speaker who subsequent withdrew, a “defeat” for the Quaker college and its ideals; the Quaker values of dignity, tolerance and respect.
William Bowen used his commencement speech to criticize students who campaigned against Robert J Bigueneau, former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley.
“More than 40 students and three professors had protested Birgeneau’s invitation to speak, objecting to his handling of a 2011 incident at Berkeley in which police used force at a student protest. The group wanted Birgeneau to apologize, support payments for victims, and write a letter to Haverford students explaining his position on the events and “what you learned from them.”
Birgeneau, who was also supposed to receive an honorary degree from Haverford, refused those demands and others in a terse email.”
Birgeneau is one of several commencement speakers who have canceled their appearances this spring amid student protests.
“I am disappointed that those who wanted to criticize Birgeneau’s handling of events at Berkeley chose to send him such an intemperate list of ‘demands,'” Bowen said Sunday. “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 counterarguments.”
Bowen also addressed the student leader of the protest.
Bowen also took aim at one of the student leaders of the protests, graduating senior Michael Rushmore, who called Birgeneau’s withdrawal from commencement “a minor victory.”
“It represents nothing of the kind,” Bowen asserted. “In keeping with the views of many others in higher education, I regard this outcome as a defeat, pure and simple, for Haverford – no victory for anyone who believes, as I think most of us do, in both openness to many points of view and mutual respect.” Philly News
William Bowen received a standing ovation.