Author Topic: Students Protest Bush Commencement Address  (Read 81 times)

Ant

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Students Protest Bush Commencement Address
« on: May 19, 2005, 10:31:24 AM »
POMP AND POLITICS IN GRAND RAPIDS: Bush visit brings controversy

BY KATHLEEN GRAY
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

May 19, 2005

Calvin College may be predominantly Republican, but a visit from President George W. Bush on Saturday is stirring up some discontent among students, faculty and alumni.
One-third of the faculty members have signed a letter of protest that will appear in a half-page ad in the Grand Rapids Press on Saturday, the day Bush is to deliver the commencement address to 900 graduating seniors at Calvin. The ad cost $2,600.

"As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers and to initiate war only as a last resort," the letter says. "We believe your administration has launched an unjust and unjustified war in Iraq."

More than 800 students, faculty and alumni also have signed a letter protesting Bush's visit that will appear Friday as a full-page ad in the Grand Rapids paper. The ad cost more than $9,500.

"We are alumni, students, faculty and friends of Calvin College who are deeply troubled that you will be the commencement speaker at Calvin," the letter states. "In our view, the policies and actions of your administration, both domestically and internationally over the past four years, violate many deeply held principles of Calvin College."

And about 100 students are expected to adorn their graduation gowns with armbands and buttons bearing the slogan: "God is not a Republican or Democrat."

"I'm definitely worried about a Christian school being affiliated with the Christian right," said Elise Elzinga, a 22-year-old Lambertville resident who will graduate Saturday with a degree in political science and international relations.

Elzinga sometimes has felt isolated during her years at Calvin because of her views. She volunteered for Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign last year. In a poll before the 2004 elections, 80 percent of Calvin's student body said they planned to vote for Bush.

But the visit from Bush also has aroused alumni and faculty.

David Crump, a professor of religion at the college for the past eight years, said even though he's not scheduled to get tenure until this summer, he felt he had to speak out.

"The largest part of our concern is the way in which our religious discourse in this country has largely been co-opted by the religious right and their wholesale endorsement of this administration," he said.

Others said they're concerned that the Bush speech will politicize the event.

"I can see that the Bush administration is gaining capital from this appearance, but I don't see what it does for Calvin," said Dale Van Kley, who was a history professor at Calvin for 28 years before he joined the staff at Ohio State University in 1998.

"What it will mean for the students is that they will be objects of a kind of campaign appearance."

Many faculty members don't share those views.

Randall Bytwerk, a communication arts and sciences professor at Calvin, said this week that he's thrilled that the president will speak to students.

"It will make commencement memorable. Unless it's somebody really interesting, it's low on people's list of memories," he said. "But no one is going to forget this." Administrators at the college tried to address concerns raised about the Bush visit in a letter to parents of seniors.

In the letter, President Gaylen Byker said it is an honor for Calvin to be chosen as one of only two sites where Bush will speak to graduates. The other is the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.

"It provides an opportunity for Calvin to communicate its distinctiveness to a broad audience," he wrote. "Please know that accepting this request from the White House does not identify Calvin as an institution that is necessarily aligned with the person or the politics of the president."

Nick Monsma, a junior at Calvin, will return to the college Saturday to volunteer at the commencement ceremonies. He views the president's visit as a historic opportunity for Calvin.

"It will be a neat opportunity to get close to a sitting president," the 21-year-old Hudsonville native said.

He said he's disappointed that students, faculty and alumni are protesting the visit.

"There's a certain forum for that kind of discussion and I don't think this is the right forum."
 

Low Key

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Re: Students Protest Bush Commencement Address
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2005, 02:12:02 PM »
What does Bush giving commencement have to do with the Christian conservative ideology? He's the president and he wants to congratulate students for graduating in person. So people waste $12,000 because they think ass backwards?

If Howard Dean was the president, and he want to give commencement to my class when I graduated, I'd be honored, and Dean is about as far left as it gets.