Letter to the Editor: Community shares thoughts on commencement

Mary Migton

Seton Hall’s decision to forgo a keynote speaker at this year’s graduation ceremony is a great disservice to the Class of 2015.

I have attended Seton Hall’s graduation ceremonies for the past several years to see my friends graduate. One of my favorite things about Seton Hall is our diversity. This campus is brimming with people of all different races.

My goal for May 2015 was to obtain an intelligent, racially diverse person who shares Seton Hall’s values as our keynote speaker. To attain my goal, I joined the Commencement Committee as one of two student representatives. The Commencement Committee is made up of important faculty representing all departments of the university.

At the Committee’s first meeting, we were informed that instead of a keynote speaker, this year there would be two student speakers, chosen by applications and interviews. I was shocked and told the Committee about my idea for a racially diverse speaker.

I spoke of Ben Carson, a recently retired neurosurgeon. A black man in his 60s, he grew up in inner-city Detroit, and through hard work and perseverance, became a world-renowned neurosurgeon. This man spent his medical career bringing health to his patients, and he is spending his retirement working to better the health of society with his charity, faith and his strong belief in education and critical thinking. How perfect, as we are a Catholic, diverse University that has just announced that we will be opening a medical school!

My idea was immediately put to rest by two people from the Office of the Provost. How is it that two people can have such clout in a decision of this magnitude? How is it that two people get to decide the enjoyment of the culmination of hundreds of students’ four years of hard work? This is not only unfair to hundreds of students, but it is also unfair to the parents and families in the audience.

Thanks to the advice of an advisor on the Committee, I contacted 15 universities that are similar to Seton Hall to gather information about their commencement ceremonies. Of these universities, only two said that they did not have keynote speakers at their graduation ceremonies. And those two universities are all the way in Texas!

With student-teaching as my priority, this project had to be put to the side. My peers simply do not have the life experience and worldly knowledge that a keynote speaker could share. We have extraordinary people on our very own campus who could send graduates off into the world with an amazing speech.

For instance, John Moon, Seton Hall’s cross-country coach, has done everything from tying the world record in the 100 yard dash to coaching the Olympics to beating cancer. Then there’s Anselm LeBourne a Seton Hall alum who teaches business classes on campus. He had a successful career on Wall Street and currently holds eight world records in Masters Track and Field. It is my hope that part of my legacy to my alma mater will be spurring the movement to give future graduates a meaningful commencement day, with a speaker who exemplifies Seton Hall’s diversity, integrity and knowledge base.

Sending graduates into the world with a final, impactful message from a speaker we can all look up to is in keeping with Seton Hall’s mission.

Mary Migton is a Seton Hall student and can be reached at mary.migton@student.shu.edu.

Author: Staff Writer

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