No keynote speaker for commencement

Photo courtesy of Seton Hall Flickr

Photo courtesy of Seton Hall Flickr

The venue change from the Izod Center in the Meadowlands to the Prudential Center in Newark will not be the only difference in the commencement ceremony for graduating seniors compared to last year.

According to Dr. Joan Guetti, senior associate of the Provost, there will be no featured keynote speaker.

“We always have student speakers. This year, we decided to make them our focus,” she said in an email. Guetti explained how the decision was made.

“We have thought about this idea in the past. Student speeches are often more meaningful to parents and families, as well as the faculty and fellow students,” she said.

According to Dr. Chrysanthy Grieco, chair of the valedictory committee, the chosen valedictorian will now be the leading speaker at commencement, and the salutatorian will speak at the awards ceremony. An alternate is selected for both.

“Besides the chair, the Valedictory Committee is comprised of a faculty member from each of our colleges/schools, making it a total of seven members,” Grieco said.

The registrar provides the information of the top students, by GPA, in each of these departments, and each are invited to apply.

“Essentially, the content was to encompass the meaning of their Seton Hall education and experience, and how it has led to a special vision for the future for each graduate and their class,” she said.

According to Alan Delozier, university archivist and associate professor, there have not been any policies against having a guest keynote speaker or an honorary degree recipient in the past. Last year, the chosen keynote speaker was Mary Eberstadt, an author and senior fellow at a conservative think tank in Washington D.C. Some faculty expressed concern over her beliefs, specifically, the fear that she did not support women in the workforce.

As reported by The Setonian last year, Dr. Roseanne Mirabella, chair of department of political science and public affairs, said some of Eberstadt’s literary work lays blame for obesity in children to their working mothers.

“She refers to working mothers as ‘absent parents,’” Mirabella said at the time.

The decision to forego a commencement speaker this year received mixed views. Dr. King Mott, associate professor of political science and women and gender studies said in an email, “In my opinion it is always wise for the University to focus on students. And, regarding an outside speaker, the litmus test demanded by some in the Catholic hierarchy profoundly limits who can speak at an academic institution.”

Mott added, “Silly and anti-intellectual voices afraid of debate certainly confound the possibility for interesting speakers. Seton Hall would be well advised to follow other prestigious Catholic universities that don’t step away from free discourse.”

Some seniors welcome the change to the ceremony for this year.

“I am very happy about this switch to student speakers,” said Luke Lachac, a senior. “I have gone to three Seton Hall graduations now, and while I have thoroughly enjoyed the qualifications and impressive accolades of the commencement speakers, there seemed to be a tone for graduation that was missing.” Other students are disappointed by the decision to skip having a well known keynote speaker.

“The student speakers, that’s great for them, but I’d rather have someone famous or an expert in their field that is really outstanding,” said Matthew Valentine, a senior. “It would have been a good way to recap all four years and the fact that they are coming to our college and speaking for our graduation would mean a lot to me.”

Mary Marshall can be reached at

Author: Mary Marshall

Mary Marshall is the Editor In Chief of The Setonian. She is a senior at Seton Hall, originally from Chicago. Mary is currently majoring in journalism and minoring in political science. She is a former intern for NBC Dateline, Tom Brokaw and MSNBC. Mary reports on local crime and breaking news on campus.

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