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Class of 2018: Commencing the protest

by The Stylus
Tue, Apr 17th 2018 09:00 pm

Students may endure four years of rigorous coursework in hopes of one day receiving the satisfaction of getting that cap and gown, walking across that stage and smiling for pictures for Mom and Dad, but they don’t always give a care in the world about who is standing up on that stage imparting wisdom upon them for life. In the case of this year’s undergraduate commencement, there have been talks of opposition regarding The College at Brockport’s  choice for the undergraduate ceremony speaker, for reasons which trace back to the core values imparted upon us at this majority liberal institution.

The 2018 commencement speaker has been announced as John Faso, class of 1974. Faso was a 2016 elect to represent the 19th district of New York in congress, tracing his career in politics all the way back to Brockport. Faso seems like a kind, seasoned politician on his Wikipedia page, but members of The Stylus staff are concerned with his history          

of congressional voting, which he has utilized to align his votes with President Donald Trump’s, 84.7 percent of the time.

When looking at Faso’s political history, there are definitely ideas which stand out. While he has seemingly not outright aligned himself directly with discriminatory legislation, he has actively been involved with controversial projects, such as a proposed fracking pipeline between New York and Pennsylvania, for which he acted as a public affairs consultant. As a generation concerned about long-lasting environmental impact, we cannot stand behind someone involved in such a treacherous endeavor which many back for financial gain.

Additionally, Faso has outwardly stated he wishes he could support the defunding of critical reproductive hub Planned Parenthood, but urged his fellow GOP members not to garner support for such an act, as doing so would result in a political disaster. Not only does opposing access to reproductive health and safety set off red flags amongst our staff, but this makes it clear he is uncomfortable in some of his decisions.

Interestingly, in an interview with thedailystar.com, Faso suggested the opposite in 2016 while campaigning.

“Do I agree with much of what [Trump] has said? No,” Faso said. “But I also don’t agree with much of what Hillary Clinton has said.”

Based on the outrageous, corrupt propositions Trump has made and continues to dispel before Congress, and the aforementioned statistic, it is safe to say that he agrees with A LOT of what Trump says these days. 

All in all, it seems strange for Brockport to choose Faso as the undergraduate commencement speaker. For all the campaigning the college does to ingrain the importance of adversity, acceptance and the idea of building a “better Brockport,” the choice seems out of character. Sure, it’s unlikely Faso will get up there and try to persuade thousands of twenty-somethings to defund Planned Parenthood, but it boils down to the principle of the thing. How many among this year’s graduating class fight tirelessly day in and day out for the rights of others, as well as themselves, all to receive a final reminder that their alma matter does not place firm value in the messages conveyed during one of the most important days of their lives?

Meanwhile, the planned speaker for the graduate ceremony is set to be Faith Prather, another distinguished graduate of the college. Prather, however, does NOT go to work in the morning with the intention of defunding the Affordable Care Act. Rather, she is a black woman with a proud history of championing for diversity and integrity, planning on retiring from her position of associate professor of public administration this spring. Prather notably co-founded the Women’s Center on campus, which has evolved into what students now recognize as the Center for Select Respect, an organization which works to tie in the campus community with diverse populations and social issues. Prather works with the Office of Diversity to ensure worthy speakers are brought before students to convey messages of inclusion. It is our belief at The Stylus that Prather more accurately reflects the image Brockport strives to obtain — one which celebrates those who uplift.

Both commencement speakers should reflect the views of the student body majority; Prather got to where she is today because of honesty and community engagement, while Faso continues to ride the backs of insidious ideals. If there are students, be they graduates or not, present at commencement who are unhappy with Faso as a speaker selection, it will be with good reason. Any possible disruption will not take away value from the money spent on graduation tickets – it will instead hopefully be a reminder that students can always take back power when they are made to feel disenfranchised by such a higher authority.

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