Georgetown students blast 'laughable’ commencement speaker protest

Students at Georgetown University are petitioning in favor of keeping Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson as one of this year’s commencement speakers despite claims that he will make undocumented students feel unsafe.

“The modern university should be a rich marketplace of ideas that fosters a diversity of viewpoints and a free exchange of beliefs. Students should encounter opinions divergent from their own and make informed judgements that sharpen their understanding of the world,” the students write in their online petition. “Now, more than ever, this essential freedom is under assault on college campuses, including Georgetown University.”

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Earlier this week, students at Georgetown presented a letter to their president to demand that he reconsider his commencement speaker selection. Johnson, they alleged, would be a poor commencement speaker since he has been involved in the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants, thus making illegal immigrant Georgetown students uncomfortable.

Georgetown’s student government later endorsed the move and expressed its disappointment with the school for inviting a speaker who would negatively impact the “graduation experience.”

“We, the GUSA Executive, support the right of UndocuHoyas and their allies to express their frustrations and disappointment regarding the selection of this year’s SFS commencement speaker, which impacts the graduation experience for undocumented students and students of mixed status families,” the governing body wrote.

Now, however, Georgetown students are taking a stand against the move to oust Johnson after hundreds of students signed a petition that condemns the effort as “laughable.”

“The idea that Georgetown’s commencement speaker cannot or should not be a ‘controversial figure’ is laughable and impossible. If there was a speaker who was not objectionable to a single audience member, then that person probably would not have much worth saying,” the petition continues, adding that now “is a time to reject the echo chambers and ‘safe spaces’ that college students so frequently try to hide inside.”

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“This is a time to embrace the dangerous and dynamic world into which the senior class is about to graduate,” it concludes.

Johnson is scheduled to speak at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service commencement, thus addressing only a portion of the student body since each school has its own commencement, making it unclear how many undocumented students will actually be forced to listen to Johnson’s address.

Nor is the Hispanic community unfamiliar with Johnson, who addressed the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute last year, where he condemned talk of building a wall on America’s southern border and argued that politicians “owe the public calm, responsible dialogue and decision-making” on immigration policy, rather than “overheated, over-simplistic rhetoric and proposals of superficial appeal.”

At press time, the counter-petition supporting Johnson’s invitation had garnered 212 signatures, while those urging the cancellation of Johnson’s speech have neglected to disclose how many people are backing their efforts.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AGockowski