Students at the University of North Texas have petitioned school officials to replace Texas Gov. Greg Abbott as the keynote speaker at the school’s 2015 spring commencement ceremony.
A Change.org petition opposing Abbott’s invitation to speak has garnered 2,435 signatories as of Tuesday evening.
The petition focuses on the fact that some students have political disagreements with Abbott, a Republican.
“The University of North Texas’ student body is made up of students from all walks of life,” the petition reads. “Therefore, it is pivotal that our keynote speaker be someone who reflects not only our student population but our views on equality and representation. Governor Abbott is an advocate for immigration reform, border patrol, and anti-equal marriage laws.”
Because some students disagree with Abbott, his views do “not align the spirit of the University of North Texas which prides itself in providing equal opportunities for their students,” the creators of the petition reason.
“While Governor Abbott’s story is inspirational, his views on inequality cannot be overshadowed by this. Our Mean Green Pride comes from being heard and respected. Which is why we ask University President Neal Smatresk to find a new keynote speaker for graduation.”
The petition does not suggest a replacement graduation speaker with views which “align the spirit” of the 36,168-student commuter school in the suburbs of Dallas.
Several signers say they will boycott their own taxpayer-funded school’s graduation ceremony if the state’s sitting governor speaks.
“I’m signing because I want to attend my own graduation ceremony, but cannot due to my moral disagreements with Abbot’s policies,” Allyson Nophsker, a decision science major, proclaims she has decided.
“I won’t attend a graduation ceremony that is split up by political preference,” agrees Benjamin Garside, who fears “a tense room filled with politically charged graduates.”
A woman named Terri Frederick says she cannot attend her own niece’s graduation “because of the extreme politics of this man.”
Other backers of the petition, such as Elizabeth Vazquez, say they “do not wish to have a speaker with a political agenda at my commencement.” (RELATED: The Daily Caller’s GINORMOUS List Grading College Commencement Speakers)
Still others focus on the concept of diversity, which they say Abbott lacks.
“Governor Abbott speaking at UNT does not represent ‘diversity,'” declares Paul Young.
“I expect a university environment that hosts speakers who foster the growth of education and represent (not suppress) diversity,” demands Leah Radecki — a cosmopolitan fan of the Democratic Party, Frack Free Denton, the website Jezebel and Olive Garden Breadsticks on her Facebook page.
Many supporters of the petition express their views cordially. However, others do not.
For example, Raul Ruiz suggests that Abbott, a paraplegic, has a “handicapped vision for Texas.” Clyde Wilson calls Abbott “a racist, bigot, homophobe, xenophobe and misogynist.” To Christina Herren, “Greg Abbott does not represent the intelligent thoughtful people of Texas. The only appropriate place for him to be key note speaker is at a KKK rally.”
Abbott won the 2014 gubernatorial election by defeating Democrat Wendy Davis 59.3 percent to 38.9 percent.
In Denton Country, which surrounds the University of North Texas, Abbott earned 65 percent of the vote.
Not everyone associated with the school is against Abbott’s presence at next month’s graduation.
“It’s an honor for UNT to have any governor visit,” 2013 alumna Libby Goins told Campus Reform.
“You wouldn’t have this disrespect at UT Austin, Texas A&M or Texas Tech,” she added.
School officials do not appear inclined to rescind the speaking invitation to the governor.
“He’s a new governor, he’s supportive of higher education,” North Texas president Neal Smatresk said, according to the Houston Chronicle. “Why wouldn’t we want to celebrate the success of our institution in its 125th year with him?”
The main North Texas graduation ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, May 16.