Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on student and youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out March 21, April 8, April 23 and May 6. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).
1. As Graduation Approaches, Smithies Kick Out the IMF
Smith College’s invitation to IMF managing director Christine Lagarde to act as this year’s commencement speaker sparked controversy across campus. In February, students circulated a petition to uninvite Lagarde, which garnered nearly 500 signatures. On May 2, fifty-six students who opposed the invitation marched to the president’s house. Inviting Lagarde directly undermines Smith’s claim to endorse the empowerment of marginalized voices, specifically voices of women of color; the IMF’s practices directly harm women around the world, including some Smith students. Since Lagarde withdrew on Monday, May 12, critics of our protests have claimed that we do not value “diversity of opinion.” Our aim is to challenge this claim—which essentially silences our own opinions—and the consistent privileging of powerful white voices.
—Alyssa Flores and Kimberly Garcia
2. The Next Day, Berkeley Chancellor Walks
On April 17, Haverford College’s Honorary Degree Committee announced the selection of Robert Birgeneau as commencement speaker. Birgeneau was chancellor of the University of California–Berkeley during the Occupy Cal protests and justified their brutal dispersal by describing linking arms as “not nonviolent civil disobedience,” before apologizing nearly two weeks later following public outcry. Haverford students circulated a petition raising concerns about Birgeneau’s role in the police reaction, but in a two-sentence response, Birgeneau said that he would not “respond to untruthful, violent verbal attacks.” Subsequently, President Dan Weiss called a community forum, where sentiment among students and faculty speakers largely turned against Birgeneau’s invitation. The Honorary Degree Committee let the invitation stand, but promised a review of its procedures for soliciting community input. President Weiss then announced on May 13 that Birgeneau had declined to attend and would not receive a degree.