Allow more student input in choosing the commencement speaker.
  • Petitioned Connecticut College Administration

This petition was delivered to:

Connecticut College Administration

Allow more student input in choosing the commencement speaker.

    1. Isaac Hancock
    2. Petition by

      Isaac Hancock

      Gettysburg, PA

  1.  
  2.   
May 2012

Victory

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.

Recent signatures

    News

    1. Sally Susman ('84)

      Isaac Hancock
      Petition Organizer

      It is important to note that Sally Susman ('84) was not with Pfizer, Inc. at the time of the supreme court battle. Her inclusion was meant to show a family history of involvement with highly controversial corporate groups. I understand that the petition implies that Ms. Susman was involved in the conflict. I do not mean to slander her in any way. The petition is attempting to indicate the failure of the administration to take seriously some details of the Susman family's associations.

    2. Results of the meeting...

      Isaac Hancock
      Petition Organizer

      Unfortunately, President Higdon had to step out of the meeting because of another commitment. Ann Daly and I spoke with Dean Bengochea and Bonnie Wells (Secretary of College and heads Commencement Speaker Committee). Here are some points from the meeting:

      Due to logistical issues, the selection process takes place entirely in the first semester of Junior year for the class choosing the speaker.
      There is an even number of students and staff on the committee.
      The class president chooses up to four people to join him/her on the committee.
      There are a couple emails sent out to the class to solicit suggestions and a survey is taken.
      President Higdon makes the final selection along with several administrators because that is how it has always been done.
      Bengochea and Wells were very open to suggestions to help improve the system and raise student involvement.

      Details of some proposals to come soon. If you have any suggestions, post a comment below the petition.

    3. Meeting with Dean Bengochea and President Higdon

      Isaac Hancock
      Petition Organizer

      The administration noticed our petition very quickly! Thanks to all the signatures and discussions, Ann Daly and I are schedule to meet with Dean Bengochea and President Higdon this afternoon. The goal of the meeting is to clarify the process of selecting the commencement speaker and unearth how Susman was chosen. After we have all the details, we will send out an update on the process and hopefully solicit suggestions for improving it. SGA will handle any systemic changes, so we can present any concrete proposals to SGA. Expect an update this afternoon or evening. Again, thank you all for your support and dedication in urging the administration to listen to the student body!

    4. Reached 200 signatures

    Supporters

    Reasons for signing

    • Devon Butler PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC
      • over 2 years ago

      Without a doubt, a school such as Conn needs to create a higher level of transparency with it's students. Having the utmost respect for Big Hig, I am disappointed at his lack of student inclusion.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Charles Barstow MIDDLEBURY, VT
      • over 2 years ago

      It's time we start emphasizing the importance of thinking, not conforming; and of educators, not hypocritical, ethically bankrupt financiers/politicians/administrators who are interested in the institution's image above all else.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Nicholas Woolf BOSTON, MA
      • over 2 years ago

      The background of this proposed commencement speaker is not in line with the character of the College at all. Last year, I felt that students needed to play a role in the selection of the speaker for our centennial class's graduation. Of course that never happened, and the result was a huge letdown (every member of my family in attendance was disappointed by the speech). This needs to change; the speaker selection process needs to be way more transparent to the student body.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Andrew Duarte NEW LONDON, CT
      • over 2 years ago

      There should be more transparency for such an important event for each commencement class.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Shari Broder FREEPORT, ME
      • over 2 years ago

      When I was at college, there was a committee comprised of students and faculty who chose the commencement speaker. Having student input into the speaker for THEIR commencement exercises is very important and enhances the college experience.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:

    Develop your own tools to win.

    Use the Change.org API to develop your own organizing tools. Find out how to get started.