A petition on change.org requesting that the University reconsider its decision to forgo a keynote speaker for commencement this year has accumulated well over 600 signatures since it was created last week. The petition was put together by a group called the Senior Student Union, or SSU, according to Sam Matino, senior diplomacy major and member of the union. Matino said that within 24 hours the petition had almost 400 signatures, and many comments from students, parents and alumni. It spread rapidly on social media websites such as Facebook, where users can use their accounts to sign the petition. The petition features an open letter to the University which says, “We are asking Seton Hall to reverse its decision and provide the Senior Class with an opportunity to be inspired. With so many great Friends, Alumni, and Professors, we believe that the talent pool is large and that the search would be easy.” Dr. Joan Guetti, senior associate Provost said, “I can appreciate the sentiments that some students and alumni have expressed on Facebook, however, I have not been advised of any changes to the plan for student speakers.” Guetti added that students have also taken to social media outlets such as Yik Yak to express dissent, but considering the anonymous nature of the app, “it’s difficult to know how to respond in that context,” she said. According to Matino, the SSU was created to represent the student body, not just the seniors, in an effort to secure a guest speaker for commencement. The group consists of students and is not affiliated with the University in any way. The Setonian reported last week that for the second year in a row there will be no guest keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony. When asked if this trend will continue, Guetti said, “This focus on students is appropriate and generally appreciated by those who attend the ceremony. Therefore, there are no plans at this point to change this arrangement.” Rhiannon Ohnstad, senior diplomacy major and member of the SSU said, “We hope to get the administration’s attention and let it be known that their decision to get rid of a commencement speaker without consent and support from students was a mistake that should not be made again. This decision to have or not to have a speaker should lie in the hands of the very students who it is affecting in our opinion.” Ohnstad added that the group has not heard from administration yet regarding the petition. The SSU has also created a Twitter account, @SSU_SetonHall, in an attempt to further in form the community and “get the word out” about their stance on the University’s decision, according to Matino. Mary Marshall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students petition for keynote graduation speaker