On the same week Seton Hall University grads booed Republican Gov. Chris Christie, organizing members of the William Paterson University class of 2011 said they plan to shun commencement speaker Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno in a “silent, non-violent demonstration against the cuts to public higher education by the Christie-Guadagno administration.”
Graduating senior and New Jersey United Students Co-Chair Daniela Jorge said higher education alone was cut $173 million last year and the Christie-Guadagno administration has proposed a flat increase in cuts to public higher education, allowing last year’s devastating cuts to remain.
“Is this an appropriate choice for a commencement ceremony?” Jorge wondered in reference to Guadagno. “Anyone aware of those cuts would say no.”
The orgnanzer, a political science major, said she and her colleagues began organizing a month and a half ago in advance of tomorow’s 10 a.m. commencement ceremony at the Izod Center in East Rutherford.
“With no student input whatsoever, the administration of William Paterson University chose a pioneer in the defunding of public higher education, Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, and are even rewarding her socially irresponsible acts with an honorary degree,” according to a student Facebook page. “Christie and Guadagno Turned Their Backs On Us, Now Turn Your Backs On Them. 2011 Graduates: Take A Stand!”
Jorge admitted there has been mixed reaction to the plan, but said most with whom she has spoken favor freezing out Guadagno, and agree William Paterson University administration officials inappropriately blocked out student input from choosing for this year’s keynote speaker.
“We believe that this is not a political, but ethical issue,” said the organizer. “Is a person who has made cuts totaling over $173 million to public higher education an appropriate choice for a public university’s commencement ceremony? No. Regardless of where one stands politically, we cannot have someone wishing us off well in our future endeavors who has been a culprit in allowing our education to be unaffordable and inaccessible.”
Eric Dryburgh, graduating senior and executive treasurer of the William Paterson University’s Student Government Association, asks, “What better way to allow students to voice their opinions than in a non-violent demonstration displaying their dissatisfaction with not only the process of choosing a keynote speaker, but WPU’s alarming choice with no regard to students’ reactions to the news? We believe our administration has chosen to politicize the graduation. We feel we have no choice but to express our opposition to what the commencement speaker represents by quietly turning our backs on her. We have no intention of disrupting the graduation ceremonies, but we cannot honor someone who stands for the destruction of public education.”
Freshman Ed Boylan, who intends to be in attendance at tomorrow’s graduation, said he didn’t appreciate what he cited as Jorge’s extremist efforts.
“I think it’s unfair to our governor,” Boylan said. “They have a freedom of speech but they don’t have freedom of action. They’ve gone too far.”