On May 28, Harvard University will have its official commencement. The speaker will be Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany.
Merkel’s power may be diminished somewhat by the machinations of politics in ol’ Deutschland, but she’s still the leader of a major world power and key U.S. ally — and that should count for something.
She’ll tell Harvard some very Merkellian things, and some very Harvard-y people will also say some stuff that’ll no doubt sound very Harvard-like, and that’ll be that.
On Wednesday, however, a different sort of commencement ceremony was held. It was titled UndocuGraduation, a graduation ceremony for students who aren’t here in the country legally.
The ceremony wasn’t thrown by the university, but instead by a group that wants to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Merkel — who has her own considerable baggage when it comes to immigration — was not present to speak. Perhaps most of the controversy involved who was: A professor arrested in 2017 for protesting President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as of a package of immigration reforms he instituted by executive action (or tried to, pending court challenges.)
“More than 50 students, faculty, staff, and administrators gathered in the Student Organization Center at Hilles Wednesday evening to honor undocumented members of the Class of 2019,” The Harvard Crimson reported.
The event — dubbed “UndocuGraduation” — marked the first reception held by student-run immigration advocacy group Act on a Dream to celebrate undocumented graduates.
“The event was organized to highlight the struggles and the ways in which undocumented students persevere on this campus,” Act on a Dream co-director Emily A. Romero told the student newspaper.
(The Crimson noted that Romero is also an editorial editor for the newspaper, so it’s nice to see the media-liberal complex embedding itself in the next generation.)
“This campus can be very difficult to navigate, yet here are so many people who came out at the end of this tunnel as better individuals than how they entered it.”
One of the primary speakers was Kirsten Weld, who was taken into custody by police for her part in a 2017 action protesting the DACA rescission, as reported on by Campus Reform.
“According to The Harvard Crimson, 31 professors in total were arrested after blocking the flow of traffic on a busy street near campus, though The Crimson notes that nearly 100 professors participated in a planning meeting just days before,” Campus Reform reported at the time.
“Indeed, multiple emails obtained by Campus Reform show that professors even encouraged students to participate in the demonstration, with one email sent to all students claiming that ‘the repeal of DACA is an attack on our university communities across the country,” noting that “educators are willing and prepared to fight back.’
“A second email explained that after ‘a brief speaking program featuring both professors and students,’ a ‘group of faculty from several area colleges’ would ‘engage in an act of non-violent civil disobedience, blocking Massachusetts Avenue until they are removed by Cambridge police,’ a consequence that would ultimately occur.”
Weld’s remarks on Wednesday were somewhat more ecumenical.
“The road to being whoever you want to be and figuring out what that means has been longer, and it’s been more winding for you, than it has been for many of your peers at the college and at the graduate schools here at Harvard,” she said.
“And I think that’s really what we’re recognizing here today.”
Campus Reform also pointed out, however, that these ceremonies are also problematic in and of themselves, not just for what they celebrate.
“The ‘UndocuGraduation’ event comes as many colleges now offer separate graduation ceremonies for, among other minorities, African American students and LGBT students. These separate ceremonies were, in part, the topic of rigorous research conducted by the National Association of Scholars,” Campus Reform eported Monday.
“The group released its research findings recently in a report, titled, ‘Separate but Equal, Again: Neo-Segregation in American Higher Education.’ The first report, released in May, focused specifically on Yale University but called attention to 173 other universities, including Harvard.”
But this is hardly surprising. After all, we have a separate graduation that’s the brainchild of a radical group that wants to abolish ICE featuring only students in the country illegally and having, as a “commencement speaker” of sorts, an academic who got herself arrested to make a political point.
No division there at all, wouldn’t you say?
At the very least, it’s indicative of where higher education is in 2019.