On Sunday, the commencement speaker at Haverford College satisfyingly used his pulpit to tell off 40 or so radical leftist students and three radical professors who had forced an honorary degree recipient to withdraw from the event.
Haverford’s commencement speaker for the Class of 2014 was William G. Bowen, who was the president of Princeton University from 1972 to 1988.
Pretty much right to their sniveling faces, Bowen called the students and professors who had successfully mounted a campaign against Robert J. Birgeneau “immature” and “arrogant,” reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Birgeneau, a former chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley, chose to cancel his appearance after the small minority of students and faculty members (Berkeley alums, all) raised a kerfuffle over his use of force to quell a 2011 student protest over rising college costs.
Bowen, one of three commencement speakers, described Birgeneau’s withdrawal as “troubling” and “sad.” He also called it a “defeat” for the principles of the very highly-selective Quaker college in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
“I am disappointed that those who wanted to criticize Birgeneau’s handling of events at Berkeley chose to send him such an intemperate list of ‘demands,'” Bowen said, according to the Inquirer. “In my view, they should have encouraged him to come and engage in a genuine discussion, not to come, tail between his legs, to respond to an indictment that a self-chosen jury had reached without hearing counter-arguments.”
The list of demands refers to a letter the protesters wrote demanding that nine conditions be met. Those conditions included a public apology and a letter to be addresssed to Haverford students detailing his position on the 2011 Berkeley protests and “what you learned from them.”
Bowen, a 2013 recipient of the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama, stressed that he took no position on Birgeneau’s management at Cal. However, he did say he thought his fellow ex-prestigious school president could have responded to Haverford’s protesters more reasonably than the short, scathing email he sent.
“I think that Birgeneau, in turn, responded intemperately,” he said, according to the Inquirer.
However, Bowen said, Birgeneau had every right to show up at Haverford.
“Aggravated as he had every right to be, I think he should be with us today,” the former Princeton president said.
Bowen specifically called out 2014 Haverford graduate Michael Rushmore, who had called Birgeneau’s absence from the festivities “a minor victory.”
“It represents nothing of the kind,” Bowen scolded. “In keeping with the views of many others in higher education, I regard this outcome as a defeat, pure and simple, for Haverford — no victory for anyone who believes, as I think most of us do, in both openness to many points of view and mutual respect.”