Education

Obscure Professors At Backwater College Object To Giuliani Commencement Speech

Almost 50 professors at St. John Fisher College in western New York have signed a letter objecting to the administration’s invitation to former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to deliver the May 9 commencement address and receive an honorary degree.

School president Donald Bain has brushed off the faculty opposition and said he has no plans to cancel Giuliani’s appearance or the conferment of the symbolic degree.

St. John Fisher is situated “on 154 park-like acres” in Pittsford, N.Y., a quiet and comfortable suburb of Rochester. It is home to some 2,900 undergrads.

The April 17 letter signed by 49 professors chides Giuliani because the famously straight-talking mayor spoke bluntly about President Barack Obama at a February fundraiser for Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker.

“I do not believe the president loves America,” the faculty letter quotes Giuliani as charging. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

The letter argues that Giuliani’s remarks are “the familiar tactic of demonizing political opponents during times of social unrest.” The professors also call out Giuliani for “victim-blaming” and accuse him of unspecified “disparaging remarks concerning African American communities and crime.”

Curiously, the St. John Fisher professors also spend a large part of their missive using exactly the same “familiar tactic of demonizing political opponents” for which they condemn Giuliani.

The professors demonize Giuliani as “a highly controversial, divisive ideologue” and suggest that the entire St. John Fisher is “in danger of betraying” its core values by even associating with the liberal Republican.

The professors also suggest that Giuliani’s very presence on campus does not “value all members of the Fisher family equally” and creates “an atmosphere of intolerance and insensitivity.”

Local public television station WXXI discussed faculty opposition to Giuliani’s commencement address with Jill Swiencicki, an associate professor of women and gender studies at St. John Fisher.

“We simply don’t believe Mr. Giuliani’s racially divisive speech needs to be held up and honored with an honorary degree,” Swiencicki, a signatory of the letter, told WXXI.

On her personal Facebook page, Swiencicki is a member of a number of groups including Occupy Rochester NY, Feminist Campus and FatFree Vegan.

Bain, the St. John Fisher president, said the administration remains unmoved by the faculty protest.

“Mr. Giuliani is expected to speak about his role in the Sept. 11 recovery. I believe this will be of interest and value to our students,” he explained, according to Inside Higher Ed.

Tuition, fees and room and board at the college add up to $42,150 annually.

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