Governor Snyder Invited as Spring Commencement Speaker: Reaction from NMU-AAUP

A statement from NMU-AAUP president Brent Graves on the selection of Rick Snyder as commencement speaker:

NMU Faculty,

Governor Rick Snyder was nominated to be our spring commencement speaker and the speaker selection committee recommended him to President Erickson. I have spoken with President Erickson several times about my concerns associated with Governor Snyder as a commencement speaker. My perspective is that our commencement speaker should be someone who brings our university and community together, who helps us to celebrate our students’ accomplishments and the value of higher education to our society. I think that Governor Snyder would be a divisive speaker who would detract from a day meant to honor our graduates.

Both within our university and among members of our surrounding communities, there is a good deal of disappointment with the actions of Rick Snyder as Michigan’s governor. Some have been concerned with the use of emergency managers to take over local government. Some are concerned with an outgrowth of that policy, specifically, the Flint water tragedy. Others are dismayed by the numerous members of his administration who have been criminally charged in relation to those events and the accuracy of Mr. Snyder’s testimony about them to Congress. Personally, I am still floored by his signing of “right to work” (for less) legislation just hours after it passed the state house, after repeatedly stating in his campaign that the issue was not on his agenda. I am sure that many in our community, such as the MGH nurses, steelworkers, K-12 teachers and many other union members, feel just as strongly.

Consequently, I will not attend a commencement that honors Rick Snyder. As I said, I have had several very congenial and open conversations with President Erickson about this and I know he has spoken to others. He listened and heard the concerns. This evening, he told me that he will invite Governor Snyder to be commencement speaker (he does not know whether the Governor will accept), but Snyder will not be an honorary degree recipient. This is an admirable acknowledgement of heartfelt concerns by President Erickson; I want to express my appreciation. However, I still feel strongly that I will not attend a commencement at which Rick Snyder is the commencement speaker.

We faculty are required to attend one commencement each year (Master Agreement section 6.1.1.4). Everyone should make their own decision, but if you feel as I do about Rick Snyder, you may wish to avoid spring commencement. If that is the case, you should attend December commencement. You can register for commencement (and have your name in the program) by signing the sheet that should still be in your department. I assume that you can also contact Academic Affairs directly. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

Brent Graves
Professor of Biology
AAUP Chapter President
Northern Michigan University

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