Thank you all for your help in this campaign! I am officially closing the petition since it is rather stagnant at this point. Since it is too late for the proposals to be officially written into SGA now, the president of SGA next year (Taylor Gould), will be responsible for seeing the process through. So, any underclassmen should look for SGA action on the issue within the first couple weeks of Fall '12. Here is a final update: The administration is ready to alter the process for choosing a commencement speaker. There will be 5 students on the Commencement Speaker Committee. These 5 students are appointed in the Fall of their Junior year. The class president is one, and he or she will be required to choose 4 others from several groups on campus. To increase student awareness of the process and make sure all voices are heard, a student will be chosen from each of the following: SGA, Residential Life, Honor Council, and Unity House or a similar diversity group. Students selected from these groups will be heavily involved on campus and able to spread word of the process through their involvement. The survey sent out in the Fall of Junior year will be limited to below 10 nominees to avoid diluting the pool of responses. The class president will be more committed to updating the class every several weeks. SGA will be largely responsible for rallying awareness around the process as it is happening. The survey results will go to the president, and rather than having him make a choice behind closed doors, the class president or a smaller faction from Commencement Speaker Committee will be part of the final decision. This way, the president still has some amount of power (he does know the Board of Trustees, Administration, and Staff better than the students). However, his decision will no longer be void of student opinion. After the final choice is made, there will be far more transparency in why that particular person was chosen. President Higdon will explain the reasons for the choice to the committee and any group of students who wish for clarification. If you have any questions, please let me know. All of the above proposals, as well as others that may come up, will be written into SGA first thing next year. The rising Juniors will be the first to experience the new process. Even though the next SGA president is informed of the proposals, it is up to the rest of SGA and the college community to make sure the improvements are put into effect. Thank you all once again. All the best, Isaac Hancock
Louis B. Susman has been chosen as the commencement speaker for the class of 2012. Susman, one of President Higdon's former colleagues, obtained his significant wealth as an investment banker and vice chairman of CitiGroup Global Markets in Chicago, a banking firm whose New York office is still under investigation by the SEC for mortgage fraud that contributed to the housing crisis. We do not think it is appropriate to invite a former leader of a corporation that is currently under investigation, or a man who has kept silent during the process. Also, President Obama appointed Susman as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom in 2009—a highly controversial and luxurious position offered to the individual who gives the most money to a victorious presidential campaign. Susman bundled over half a million dollars in donations to Obama and gave regularly to the Obama's political career over the last decade. This practice is controversial among those who believe that money continues to be a corrupting influence in our political system. As an institution focused on community, integrity, and social change, Susman does not appear to be representative of Connecticut College's ideals, nor of our senior class.
In addition, his daughter (Sally Susman ‘84) is an alumnus of Connecticut College, which presumably boosted the allure of having Susman speak. However, Sally Susman is the Executive VP and policy overseer at Pfizer, Inc., which not long ago razed New London neighborhoods and participated in a Supreme Court eminent domain battle, Kelo v. City of New London. The company then decided to pull out of our city, taking the thousands of jobs it promised, and leaving the community with no compensation. Ms. Susman has also bundled over half a million dollars for Obama’s re-election campaign thus far. As an investment banker with a family history of prioritizing monetary capital and being rewarded for it, we do not believe Louis B. Susman should be imparting his advice to our senior class on Commencement.
President Higdon has made it clear that he is unwilling to discuss a different choice of speaker, but the goal of this petition is to gain more transparency from the administration regarding the process of such a speaker. The students deserve far more of a voice in determining the individual making our Commencement address. We want future classes to have more say and more transparency than the Class of 2012 and former classes received. We want the student body as a whole to take action when the administration disconnects from the students. We are not suggesting that everyone on campus is opposed to Susman, but we do think it is the student's right to know who he is, why he was selected, and decide for themselves if he represents Conn. Please sign this petition to show the administration that the students cannot be kept ignorant and silent.