You know commencement season is underway when you begin to hear the distant chatter of entitled children complaining, "Not important enough" or "Not famous enough."
Harvard students have taken the entitlement cake this year, with some students dissing their Class Day speaker, J.K. Rowling. The sentiment was hardly widespread, but there were at least a handful of malcontents who thought that "we could have done better" than the Harry Potter scribe. Sure, she's made only $1.1 billion (and counting) in a dying industry and has rejuvenated the joy of reading for billions of children around the world...but I'm sorry, you'll just have to settle.
While the kids from Cambridge thought the school "should have picked a leader" to speak—the future grads at Northwestern probably would take anything but. When the school announced that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley would be their speaker, the students went ballistic. "All of our worst fears...are TRUE," says one blog.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, all that despair is falling on deaf ears. In a letter to NU President Henry Bienen, one student ranted that the choice of Daley was an "unequivocal slap in the face" that shows "the university has proved again why it is falling rapidly in the national rankings." In response, Bienen pulled out his best ad hominem attack: "You sound like a very unhappy person. I am sorry for that. Hopefully things will improve for you over the years." Plus, "By the way you think a commencement speaker has anything to do with the national stature of Northwestern tells me we failed here in educating you."
Wow. Them be fighting words! NU's graduation will take place on June 20, at which point we'll find out if all the grumbling was for naught.
Other notable commencement dust-ups:
*Before the undergrads had their chance at the soapbox, Northwestern Law School students were the first to be outraged over their own graduation speaker: Jerry Springer. Before the speech, the nicest words I read were, "NU deserves better." By the end of the speech, half the audience gave a standing ovation, and the former talk show host even made one student teary-eyed.
*In a year in which the University of Georgia has made progress on the issue of sexual harassment, students and faculty were beside themselves at the announcement of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas at their May 10 commencement. Thomas, whose biography will be forever tainted with the Anita Hill's accusation of sexual harassment, was met without protest on graduation day and received a standing ovation anyway. So much for controversy.
*And don't forget about conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, who inspired quiet protest from students and faculty at Washington University in St. Louis. Also, Bill Clinton and California state Assembly member Fabian Núñez have canceled their appearances at UCLA and UC-Davis, respectively, in solidarity with a union that is currently in contract talks with the University of California system. Graduates, understandably, are not happy.