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Outside view: Commencement correctness

By MARC LEVIN, A UPI Outside view commentary   |   June 22, 2002 at 5:09 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, June 21 (UPI) -- When most Americans think of college graduations, the themes of optimism and unity spring to mind. In light of the attacks of Sept. 11, traditions such as commencements that mark an important rite of passage take on all the more significance. Yet, the commencements of 2002 were often divisive and politicized, eschewing the themes of optimism and unity that have long characterized college graduations.

Perhaps the most disturbing trend is the advent of separate ceremonies for minority groups. While the blood shed at the World Trade Center and Pentagon was the same color for all who were murdered, many universities have decided that the best way to prepare their graduates for an increasingly diverse society is to hold segregated graduations.

In 2002, the University of California at Santa Cruz held a special ceremony for over 45 gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students. This event even included local high school and community college graduates, indoctrinating them into the separatist campus orthodoxy.

At Iowa State University and the University of Michigan, a "Lavender Graduation" was held to honor lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.

Other segregated ceremonies focus on race and ethnicity, sometimes with curious omissions. This year the University of Texas at Austin held a separate graduation event for racial and ethnic minorities that included African-American, Hispanic, and Native American students, but excluded Asian Americans. Similarly, the California State Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo convenes a special ceremony only for black students.

The University of California at Los Angeles attempts to cover all the bases, holding a "Lavender Graduation" for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students, a "Raza Graduation" for Latinos, as well as separate graduations for Filipinos, Asian Pacific Islanders, African-Americans, Iranians, and American Indians.

Even when graduations do not themselves promote divisiveness through separate minority ceremonies, left-wing commencement speakers often create discord by making egregious remarks. Perhaps the most offensive commencement address in 2002 was delivered by Professor Bell Hooks, who rejects capitalization as an invalid social construct, at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas.

Hooks stated, "The radical, dissident voices among you have learned here at Southwestern how to form communities of resistance that have helped you find your way in the midst of life-threatening conservatism, loneliness, and the powerful forces of everyday fascism which use the politics of exclusion and ostracism to maintain the status quo. Every terrorist regime in the world uses isolation to break people's spirits."

Hooks then declared, "Indeed our nation's call for violence in the aftermath of 9/11 was an expression of widespread hopelessness, the cynicism that has been at the heart of our nation's ongoing fascination with death." She said that following 9/11: "Many Americans experienced for the first time a moment of clarity when they knew without a doubt that to choose life, we must stand against violence, we must choose peace. And yet that moment of collective clarity was soon obscured by the imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal hunger to show the planet our nation's force, to show that this nation would commit absolute acts of violence that will wipe out whole nations and worlds. The world was held spellbound by our government's declaration of its commitment to violence, to death."

At Smith College in Massachusetts, law professor Lani Guinier, responding to President Bush's statement at the Yale commencement last year that he demonstrates even "C" students can be President, remarked, "You, too, can be President, but only if you're a straight white man."

Guinier is apparently unaware of polls showing the vast majority of Americans would vote for a minority President, including specific surveys indicating that Colin Powell could have won the Presidency in 2000.

While leftists like Hooks and Guinier who do not hold public office are often invited to give commencement speeches, a Young America's Foundation study shows conservatives who do not hold public office are rarely asked to speak. Even when conservatives do deliver commencement addresses, a protest can almost always be counted on.

For example, students protested National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice this year at Stanford University. Liberal students even denounced apolitical children's entertainer Fred Rogers, who spoke this year at Dartmouth University, his alma mater, because he is not "a human rights activist."

Apparently, making the lives of millions of children a little brighter and teaching them important lessons of life is not considered an accomplishment in the hallowed halls of the Ivory Tower.

When black soldiers fought valiantly for America beside whites in World War II, it helped inspire the great Civil Rights movement of the 1950's and 60's.

Likewise, Sept. 11 has renewed similar feelings of patriotism and unity in American society. However, as the commencements of 2002 show, academia remains a bastion of political correctness that rejects the integrationist model of the original civil rights movement and instead sows divisiveness and dissension into the hearts and minds of America's young people.

(Marc Levin is the vice president of the Texas Review Society and associate editor of The Austin Review (austinreview.com). He can be reached at mrmarclv@aol.com)

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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