Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to give the commencement speech at Notre Dame on May 21, and not everybody is happy. The Washington Times reports a grassroots effort has begun on campus to force the university to change their choice for the class of 2017 commencement speaker. Directors of the campaign, Immane Mondane and Jourdyhn Williams, said many students are frightened by Pence’s presence on campus. They also insist Notre Dame students shouldn’t be subject to Mike Pence because he is “a speaker who promotes bigoted and hateful rhetoric.”
Mike Pence will be the first vice-president to give a commencement speech at the University. This year marks the 172nd commencement for the 175-year-old university.
On the group’s Facebook page post, the Notre Dame protesters claim Mike Pence is a danger to the school and the students.
“…his presence ostracizes members of our student body, silences the voices of the marginalized in the ND community and threatens our safety, both emotionally, psychologically, and physically.”
There is no evidence or examples given about how his presence makes any student or faculty member unsafe, or about who feels marginalized.
The students began the #NotMyCommencementSpeaker protest, with Notre Dame students holding a whiteboard with a Mike Pence quote on it. Organizers have asked students to write any “direct quotes from Pence that are racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, offensive, or ostracizing to members of our community.” They didn’t mention if there would be any fact checking on the quotes, to ensure none of them were misquotes or false. Photos of the whiteboard protesters don’t reveal many quotes as much as thoughts and opinions about how Pence makes them feel.
Pence was invited to the University because he is a native of Indiana and rose through the political ranks to be the 50th governor of the state. Notre Dame’s administration invited the Vice-President. Mike, along with six other people, will also receive an honorary degree during the ceremony. The university, so far, is unapologetic for choosing Pence. The school president, John I. Jenkins, released a statement on March 2 about why the school chose Pence.
“It is fitting that in the 175th year of our founding on Indiana soil that Notre Dame recognize a native son who served our state and now the nation with quiet earnestness, moral conviction and a dedication to the common good characteristic of true statesmen.”
The protesters state on their Facebook page the students of Notre Dame “stand in solidarity” against his choice as the commencement speaker. However, the hashtag campaign doesn’t seem to have gained much traction on social media. The Twitter and Facebook posts are filled with people calling the students the usual “alt-right”-inspired names of “snowflakes” and “sensitive.” There is some support from a few students and alumni, but overall, the comments were negative and unsympathetic. The Twitter account, in particular, seems to have been flooded with supporters of the University and Vice-President Pence.
The protests have stoked the growing argument of freedom of speech on campuses. While the anti-Pence campaign has not been silenced by the administration, the pressure on students who openly give support to political causes or figures is immense. This has been witnessed on college campuses across the country, but especially at Cal Berkley where riots and fights between supporters and opponents of President Trump have become a regular occurrence.
Vice-President Pence is not the first political figure to draw the ire of Notre Dame Students. In 2009, students protested a speech by President Obama, and in 2016 there were protests at an appearance by then-Vice President Biden.
Notre Dame has not made any other public statement about Mike Pence’s attendance, and there does not appear to be any plans to cancel his appearance.
[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]