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Commencement Update


I am writing to report that Dr. Robert Birgeneau has declined our invitation to come to campus and receive an honorary degree at this Sunday’s commencement.   A longtime advocate for LGBT rights, faculty diversity, and access and affordability for the middle class as well as undocumented students, Dr. Birgeneau inspired our Honorary Degree Committee of students, faculty, alumni, staff, the Board, and Corporation to support his nomination with great enthusiasm. Following the announcement of this year’s four honorees, members of the Haverford community expressed concern about Dr. Birgeneau’s role as chancellor at UC Berkeley when, in November 2011, nonviolent protest, as part of the Occupy movement, was broken up through acts of force by the campus police.  Last Thursday’s open meeting here at Haverford provided an opportunity for all concerned to understand why Dr. Birgeneau was selected for this honor; why some take exception; and how we might support our core values of peaceful confrontation, pacifism, and nonviolent protest, while fostering dialogue with people with whom we might disagree. It was, for me, an illuminating and valuable conversation, which regrettably did not include Dr. Birgeneau. In offering congratulations to our students and their families, Dr. Birgeneau also expressed disappointment at not being able to increase awareness of what he believes to be the defining social justice issue of this generation of graduates: the plight of 11 million undocumented American immigrants.  Under Dr. Birgeneau’s leadership, Berkeley became the first public university in the United States to offer undocumented students comprehensive financial aid. The Board of Managers, campus colleagues, and I express our appreciation for the views of those who were opposed to Dr. Birgeneau’s selection.  It is nonetheless deeply regrettable that we have lost an opportunity to recognize and hear from one of the most consequential leaders in American higher education.  Though we may not always agree with those in positions of leadership, I believe that it is essential for us as members of an academic community to reaffirm our shared commitment to the respectful and mindful process by which we seek to learn through inquiry and intellectual engagement. Sincerely, Daniel Weiss

The Climbing Stone, by Peter Rockwell '58, is located outside Magill Library.

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