Watching the silencing of Condoleezza Rice and other graduation speakers this graduation season, I found myself thinking of the “check your privilege” debate, and of the complexities of power in the university setting. At least some of the protestors seemed to be exercising their own form of privilege—privilege that they have in universities, but will not have quite so much of in the working world.
Some warn that the protests are destroying the long tradition of inviting prominent figures to deliver commencement addresses. I’m no fan of the protests, but perhaps there’s a silver lining. The politicization of graduation speeches may encourage more colleges to invite artists and poets and philosophers to deliver the speeches. It don’t think this would be such a bad thing, and it may even serve as a final reminder that the best colleges do much more than maximize the starting salaries of their graduates.