All Posts Tagged With: "speech"
Maybe that $32,000 Rutgers bill wasn’t a (complete) waste of money
Many Rutgers University students were horrified this week to learn that $32,000 of their mandatory student fees went to Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi for her appearance on campus Thursday night. The Jersey Shore reality star addressed a crowd of more than 1,000 students as part of a live Q&A held at the university’s Livingston Student Center. Fueling the fire is the news that Rutgers’ upcoming commencement speaker, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, will be paid $2,000 less to address the graduating class next month.
To try to make the case that the money was spent wisely would be akin to attempting to run a fine-toothed comb through Pauly D’s hair—it just won’t happen. After all, it only makes sense that a university should be committed to backing speakers who appreciate the fundamental values of the institution. And as far as I know, Rutgers’ official motto doesn’t translate to, “Hooray for guidos and juiceheads!”
But there are things that students can take away from Snooki’s address, besides how to achieve that pumpkin-orange glow. The first lesson is a simple one: these people exist. While students spend years collecting facts in university, the campus can still serve as a microcosm of misinformation about the real word. “My degree makes me employable,” we think. “Only the smart succeed.” “Everyone talks about Kant’s philosophy over cocktails.” Of course, this is not always true. But immersed in a world of categorical imperatives and social justice rallies, we forget that society is a little different beyond the university gates. That might explain why students are often so surprised to see such low youth voter turnout rates during election time. We forget that some young adults would rather fist pump to house music than scroll through the incumbent platform. Not that political apathy or a Snooki-type lifestyle is something to be lauded. But it is something to recognize as present.
The other value to be had from a Snooki address is the fact that she exemplifies all it means to say, “Stupid Sells.” Case in point: When asked by a Rutgers student about her biggest inspiration, Snooki reportedly replied, “I’d honestly say being tan. When you’re tan, you feel better about yourself.” Either Snooki is taking us all for a ride, or those UV rays are doing something fierce on the inside. In any case, Snooki is a reminder to the academic population that smarts are not always necessary for success. Obviously an exceptional case, but Snooki is living proof that you can end up on the New York Times bestseller list even if you spell your name with zeros. Academic scholarship is often put on a pedestal in the higher-ed bubble, and understandably so. But success can also be found through a killer recipe, a great idea, or the ability to fix a faulty furnace better than anyone in the city. Snooki is a reminder–albeit, an exaggerated one–that success is bred from a variety of forms, and not just a stellar transcript.
Why pay tribute to war veterans when you can make divisive political statements instead?
Today is Remembrance Day, where citizens across the nation pay our respects to the men and women who have served for Canada. Many people wear poppies as silent tribute to the war dead, pause for a minute of silence, and deliver ceremonial addresses in honour of Canada’s veterans. In some areas of the nation, however, these addresses tend to stray just a smidgen from the main point. Yup, just a smidgen. And on to campus . . .
Nick Day, Queen’s University’s student rector who has been elected to represent student views on social and financial matters to the university, delivered his laundry list of political talking points Remembrance Day address this morning at a Queen`s university-wide ceremony. Day began by telling the audience how his grandfather served in the Royal Canadian Air Force, fondly recalling passed-down war memories contained in an old, cracked cigar box. And then, according to the transcript Day posted on his Facebook page, he diverted:
The armies of the developed world have an unprecedented technological ability to create death.
What? Did you miss something? Maybe you were fiddling with your red poppy, you jingoistic, war-glorifier you.
I believe [my grandfather] would have a lot to say about several things that, in today’s fragmented world, are left unsaid. He would certainly speak up about the continuing violence done to the First Nations of Canada, who are plagued by disproportionate poverty, crime and incarceration, poor health, and who are disproportionately also the victims of violent crimes.
Day goes on to lament global inaction during the Rwandan genocide, and the so-called “international silence” on Palestinian human rights. (Understandable—perhaps the glare from someone’s white poppy was blocking out most UN declarations on Palestinian issues from the past several decades.) Day finishes off by with a quick stab at the Israeli Defense Force, exaltation of Romeo Dallaire, and then back to his grandfather.
Remembrance Day is a time to honour and remember the nobility of the principles defended by the brave citizens of Canada who have come before us. To honour those principles today, I think, requires us to recognize and stand against the atrocities committed at home and abroad.
In order to truly honour the sacrifices of those who fought for justice, we are now required to speak about new forms of injustice, perhaps ones that are harder to see, harder to recognize, that punctuate the lives of the many abused people of this planet.
No, Mr. Day. In order to truly honour the sacrifices of those who fought for justice, one has to actually deliver more than a line or two about those who fought for justice.
Unfortunately, crass and opportunistic hijacking of public addresses is becoming somewhat of a theme on university campuses. Last month, University of Winnipeg valedictorian Erin Larson used her convocation address to slam Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. Her divisive political statements came off as ill-timed, to say the least, but Day may have taken the cake with this one.
Divisive political points have no place in a Remembrance Day address. A ceremony intended to honour the memory of war veterans should do exactly that. To deliberately look the other way demonstrates an inordinate lack of gratefulness towards previous generations, something for which I, as a member of this younger generation, am personally ashamed. Next year, I should hope Day and like-minded individuals wait until the 12th to clear their social consciences.
UWinnipeg valedictorian should have left her protest against an honourary degree for Vic Toews outside
The convocation ceremony at the University of Winnipeg this past Sunday became more than just an educational rite of passage when valedictorian Erin Larson took to the podium. “While I’m immensely proud to be an alumnus of the University of Winnipeg and extremely honoured to have been selected valedictorian,” Larson began, “I have to admit I’m not proud to share the stage with everyone who is on it today.”
Behind Larson sat Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who was being awarded an honourary degree by the University of Winnipeg. Toews, who is staunchly opposed to gay marriage, abortion, and other positions sure to reckon him unpopular at a university, stared at his program while Larson continued her valedictorian address.
“I feel the University of Winnipeg has recently suffered a profound loss of integrity due to the actions of the administration,” Lawson continued. “The decision to give an honorary law degree to someone who is best known to my generation of students as being a vocal opponent of expanding human rights is questionable at best.”
The decision was indeed a dubious one for the liberally-reputed University of Winnipeg. Some students, in fact, chose to forgo their walk across the stage in favour of a protest outside the university, where about 40 people gathered holding placards condemning the university’s bestowment of the honorary doctor of laws degree on Toews. It was inside, however, in front of hundreds of alumni, students, family and friends, where Larson chose to make her beliefs known.
She had every right to do so, of course. As valedictorian, those few minutes were her own, to do with whatever she pleased. Though just because we have the right, say, to wave an aluminum rod around amid a lightning storm, it doesn’t mean the idea is suddenly a good one. Larson began her speech commenting on her desire to properly reflect the sentiments of the graduating body, yet continued by expressing her own profound disappointment with the university’s honourary degree decision. Was she speaking on behalf of the student body? Or momentarily abandoning her pledge to do so?
In any case, a valedictory address should not be a political soapbox. While it could be said that granting an honourary degree to a cabinet minister is a political statement in itself, the valedictorian’s speech is not the time to initiate forthright political debate, particularly in front of friends and family who have come to watch their graduate cross the stage.
Larson’s approach simply comes off as crass. She could have joined the group of protestors outside the convocation, or declined her role as valedictorian, a move that would have sent the same point without hijacking the event to tout her ideological message. While holding your breath and plugging your ears is sometimes championed as valiant political activism amid the cozy walls of the university campus, the real world expects some tact when trying to make a political statement. (Well, except in the House of Commons.)
Larson made a point of mentioning the university’s mission statement while drilling home her position, reading that it strives to “Offer a community which appreciates, fosters and promotes values of human dignity, equality, nondiscrimination and appreciation of diversity.” Yet Larson, trying to emphasize that the university has forfeited its integrity by bestowing an honour on a man who doesn’t represent its mission statement, inadvertently forfeits her own by resorting to a tactless, ill-timed public statement. Whether or not you agree with Toews politically, subjecting him to public humiliation certainly does not further any efforts to promote “human dignity.” Though compassion and tolerance for ideological diversity–maybe that’s something one picks up in post-grad.