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Speakers confirmed for commencement

by Alyssa Daley - Editor-in-Chief
Tue, Apr 10th 2018 11:00 am

Each year The College at Brockport, like most higher education institutions, decides on commencement speakers for its undergraduate and graduate ceremonies in May. Last year the undergraduate speaker was New York Senator Chuck Schumer. There was little excitement about his speaking, as he is quite commonly invited to speak at colleges all around New York State for graduation ceremonies, but there also was not an undercurrent of unhappiness with his impending arrival around this time last year. 

This year, however, is different. 

The decision was made to invite U.S. Congressman John Faso, who graduated from the college in 1974 and was elected in November 2016 to represent the 19th District of New York. 

Faso is a known republican. Projects.fivethirtyeight.com, a polling aggregation website with a blog created by analyst Nate Silver, has configured that the likelihood of Faso agreeing with President Donald Trump is 87.1 percent of the time. 

He has supported making concealed firearms permits valid across state lines, banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, giving the government more power to deport and deny admission to immigrants suspected of being in gangs, delaying implementation of ozone standards and numerous other policies that are anti-immigration, anti-gun control, anti-environmentalist and anti-reproductive rights.

The College at Brockport has made strides this year to increase cultural competency across campus over the past two years. It has voiced on numerous occasions the importance of diversity and inclusion. Some students, faculty and staff feel as though choosing Faso as this year’s commencement speaker goes against the college’s mission to make all students feel at home on this campus. There is talk of organizing a peaceful protest and even showing opposition by graduating seniors decorating their caps with what has become the iconic power fist. The fist has been used to represent the empowerment of many different oppressed groups, including women, people of color and members of the LGBTQ community.

Faso is a stark contrast to the speaker the college chose as the graduate commencement speaker. One such noticable difference is Faso is a white man, while Faith Prather, Ph.D., is a woman of color who is an associate professor of public administration. She was a recipient of the 1999 Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and has served the college for over three decades in multiple roles, including interim director of affirmative action and interim provost for diversity. 

Prather  is a co-founder of the Brockport’s Women’s Center (also known as The Center for Select Respect), has been actively involved in consultation, education, and training to several organizations including the United Way African American Leadership Development Program, the Rochester Department of Social Services and the National Drug Court Institute. 

When comparing the college’s mission statement, “The College at Brockport is an inclusive learning community that inspires excellence through growth, engagement, and transformation” to Prather’s resumé, key values are shared. These being: inclusivity, engagement and community.

Within the distinctions between the undergraduate and graduate speakers, the current nation’s political and social divide has been personified. The Stylus will continue to follow this story as traction in opposition of Faso’s impending speech continues to increase.

Commencement dates are as follows: Graduate Ceremony is Friday, May 11 and Undergraduate is Saturday May 12. Note that undergraduate commencement is divided into morning and afternoon ceremonies. Students majors are what determines which they are meant to attend. For more information visit brockport.edu/academics/commencement.