Alabama faculty join effort to silence Sen. Jeff Sessions
Some faculty members at the University of Alabama in Huntsville are joining their students in protesting the selection of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as this year’s Commencement speaker.
Sessions was chosen unanimously by a selection committee made up of students, faculty, and staff members, but a student petition surfaced over the weekend calling for his invitation to be revoked because his political positions and endorsement of Donald Trump allegedly conflict with the university’s values.
UAH responded Monday with a statement pledging to stand by the selection committee’s decision, praising Sessions for his support for the military and service to the people of Alabama in the U.S. Senate.
Rather than accept that statement as the final word on the matter, a Change.org user called “Friends of UAH Faculty” started a new petition Tuesday purporting to express the objections of faculty members to Sessions’ invitation.
“As proud members of the faculty at the University of Alabama in Huntsville we believe that recipients of Honorary Degrees should reflect the best ideals of the institution,” the petition begins. “These include an acknowledgement of the benefits of a liberal education, support for public institutions, inclusion and enfranchisement of all citizens, and a worldview that respects the value of diversity in all its forms (cultural, religious, political, etc.).”
Despite their protestations that “our concerns are not partisan,” the petition’s authors proceed to argue that Sessions’ political positions, as outlined in a lengthy list chronicling his Senate votes, “should not be condoned” by UAH, though they make no mention of his endorsement of Trump.
“Honoring Senator Sessions with this platform lends tacit University support to his extreme and divisive record, his repeated dismissal of scientific principles, his attempts to marginalize elements of society, and his refusal to carry out his [c]onstitutionally mandated responsibilities as an elected official,” the petition states.
The authors also deny that disinviting Sessions would amount to censorship, saying they encourage him to speak at UAH under any other circumstance, but “since students, family, friends, and faculty are obliged to attend graduation, this attendance is an [sic] tacit acknowledgement of legitimacy as an honorary degree recipient and mandates participation as an audience for the commencement speaker.”
The new petition had garnered 77 signatures as of Thursday afternoon, but contrary to the document’s claims, not all of them came from UAH faculty.
Although the names of signatories are not made public, the comments section contains posts from nine individuals who are not listed as faculty in the UAH directory, including several current students and alumni, and even one who identifies as the parent of a student.
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