Students at a women’s liberal arts college claimed they were showing solidarity with the movement for female equality when they demanded that International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, one of the most powerful women in the world, withdraw as commencement speaker.
On Monday, Lagarde agreed to withdraw as commencement speaker at Smith College in Massachusetts.
“I respect their views,” said Lagarde in a statement to Smith College President Kathleen McCartney. “To preserve the celebratory spirit of commencement day, I believe it is best to withdraw my participation.”
The petition that called for Lagarde to withdraw was launched by Smith students and faculty members. It took issue with IMF policy:
Even if we give Ms. Lagarde the benefit of the doubt, and recognize that she is just a good person working in a corrupt system, we should not by any means promote or encourage the values and ideals that the IMF fosters. The IMF has been a primary culprit in the failed developmental policies implanted in some of the world’s poorest countries. This has led directly to the strengthening of imperialist and patriarchal systems that oppress and abuse women worldwide. At Smith College, a school with a campaign called “Women for the World”, we are taught how to stand up and fight against inequality and corruption. We are taught to speak up when something is unjust, and we do not wish to be represented by a system that doesn’t support us.
Merely allowing Lagarde to speak at commencement would constitute an attack on notions of gender, race and socioeconomic equality, according to the petition.
McCartney expressed disappointment over the missed opportunity to hear from an important international figure like Lagarde.
“An invitation to speak at a commencement is not an endorsement of all views or policies of an individual or the institution she or he leads,” said McCartney in a statement, according to masslive.com. “Such a test would preclude virtually anyone in public office or position of influence. Moreover, such a test would seem anathema to our core values of free thought and diversity of opinion.”
The relentless thought-policing of prospective college speakers by censorship-inclined students, faculty and administrators has become a recurring feature of graduation season. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was recently forced to withdraw as Rutgers University commencement speaker after students objected to her. And American Enterprise Institute Scholar Ayaan Hirsi Ali was disinvited as an honorary degree recipient by Brandeis University after students complained about her principled anti-Islamic views. (RELATED: University’s decision to rescind degree to critic of Islam not going over well)
McCartney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.