Student Commencement Speaker Reconsidered

It’s usually taken for granted that the senior class president will give a speech at graduation each year, but the WSA is apparently entertaining a motion this week to turn over selection of a student speaker to a committee composed of senior class officers, who would choose from a pool of applicants and be barred from applying themselves.

Which seems kind of arbitrary. If someone’s being chosen to represent an entire graduating class, they should be chosen by more students in the class than just a few WSA members.

But I’m surprised that the article and Wespeaks in the Argus about this issue neglect to mention the likely reason that this resolution was even put forward – last year’s senior class president gave a speech to mixed reactions, and it was kind of embarrassing to have someone like Barack Obama (not to mention everyone else present) witness the Wesleyan student body represented by one somewhat erratic speaker.

Which isn’t to say that would be the case this year – by at least several accounts, 2009’s class president Ravid Chowdhury is deserving of the privilege, and it would be unfair to take it away when he was ostensibly elected by seniors last year with the knowledge that he’d be speaking at graduation.

But the Argus doesn’t have a bad idea in proposing that in addition to the class president, who is elected mainly for being a good organizer if not necessarily a good speech-maker, another student be chosen to address the class based solely on their ability to deliver a great speech.

In any case, the WSA votes on the issue this weekend. You can watch the 2008 student commencement address here (cut ahead to 9:40 for it), or read the full transcript.

82 thoughts on “Student Commencement Speaker Reconsidered

  1. Anonymous

    I am really still trying to get my head around 11:35’s comment. I really think that if your mother inferred that Rashida is learning disabled then it is most likely that the one with a disability is your mother. Sorry Rashida has a personality and doesn’t fit the cookie cutter version of a commencement speaker that your mom expected, but is it really so bad that someone’s speech actually shed light on the Wesleyian experience? Also as crazy as Palin is she is a great speaker so super point 11:35.

  2. Anonymous

    I am really still trying to get my head around 11:35’s comment. I really think that if your mother inferred that Rashida is learning disabled then it is most likely that the one with a disability is your mother. Sorry Rashida has a personality and doesn’t fit the cookie cutter version of a commencement speaker that your mom expected, but is it really so bad that someone’s speech actually shed light on the Wesleyian experience? Also as crazy as Palin is she is a great speaker so super point 11:35.

  3. Anonymous

    The problem was not that Rashida’s speech mentioned embarrassing things, but that it was itself embarrassing. The problem was not what she wrote, but rather that it sounded like she had not written ANYTHING AT ALL. Its not about being real or not. She could have been real and still not sounded like she was speaking at a middle school graduation.

  4. Anonymous

    The problem was not that Rashida’s speech mentioned embarrassing things, but that it was itself embarrassing. The problem was not what she wrote, but rather that it sounded like she had not written ANYTHING AT ALL. Its not about being real or not. She could have been real and still not sounded like she was speaking at a middle school graduation.

  5. Anonymous

    no offense but then your mom is an ass. I think its offense to compare her to those 2 idiots. And I think the person above meant real as in Wesleyan is a fucked up place and so is the outside world. She obviously wrote a speech just for our class. I really appreciated that since it was obvious most people were not there for us, if you didn’t see how the hill cleared out after he spoke. Also the fact that all you people can still sit here and complain 6 months later just shows you were worthless at wes and still are now that you’ve graduated. In fact, after reading all these comments and seeing how easy people bash someone that did a lot of great things at the school makes me embarrassed to be an alum. You really are just a racist bigoted institution that is trying to find a way to get more white students on the stage because you are sick of seeing students of color hold such an esteemed position. That in itself is unforgivable.

  6. Anonymous

    no offense but then your mom is an ass. I think its offense to compare her to those 2 idiots. And I think the person above meant real as in Wesleyan is a fucked up place and so is the outside world. She obviously wrote a speech just for our class. I really appreciated that since it was obvious most people were not there for us, if you didn’t see how the hill cleared out after he spoke. Also the fact that all you people can still sit here and complain 6 months later just shows you were worthless at wes and still are now that you’ve graduated. In fact, after reading all these comments and seeing how easy people bash someone that did a lot of great things at the school makes me embarrassed to be an alum. You really are just a racist bigoted institution that is trying to find a way to get more white students on the stage because you are sick of seeing students of color hold such an esteemed position. That in itself is unforgivable.

  7. Anonymous

    I was at commencement. My Mom actually asked me in the middle of Rashida’s speech if she was “learning disabled” – and she was not being snide. That woman was an embarrassment to this institution. And if this speech was “real” then W should be cannonized as the patron saint of “The Real” and Sarah Palin should be our next “Real” President of the United States.

  8. Anonymous

    I was at commencement. My Mom actually asked me in the middle of Rashida’s speech if she was “learning disabled” – and she was not being snide. That woman was an embarrassment to this institution. And if this speech was “real” then W should be cannonized as the patron saint of “The Real” and Sarah Palin should be our next “Real” President of the United States.

  9. Anonymous

    everyone need to calm the hell down. Her speech was real I’m sorry she didn’t sugarcoat our experience. In fact from knowing her she could’ve mentioned a lot more fucked up shit she experienced at wesleyan in the speech. So for all you ashamed, mad and embarrassed people you should feel that way because its sad those things happened at wes. Also she didn’t think the punching the bus driver was funny in fact she had to deal with so much shit this year because of that she probably mentioned it because it is a big memory of our class and shows how dumb we were and still apparently are. And all of this shit is stupid how do you pick a “good” commencement speaker from applying and essay. It still wouldn’t prepare them for what Rashida had to deal with which was 2 days before you speak you find out it will be in front of 20,000 people and Barack Obama. OH and another fuck you for everyone, my sister worked for him this summer, talked to him and mentioned our commencement and Rashida’s speech and guess what assholes he said he really liked her speech because it was very realistic and seemed heartfelt and written to the class rather than one trying to impress “America” and the families of you assholes. so happy i’m out of this dumb as school

  10. Anonymous

    everyone need to calm the hell down. Her speech was real I’m sorry she didn’t sugarcoat our experience. In fact from knowing her she could’ve mentioned a lot more fucked up shit she experienced at wesleyan in the speech. So for all you ashamed, mad and embarrassed people you should feel that way because its sad those things happened at wes. Also she didn’t think the punching the bus driver was funny in fact she had to deal with so much shit this year because of that she probably mentioned it because it is a big memory of our class and shows how dumb we were and still apparently are. And all of this shit is stupid how do you pick a “good” commencement speaker from applying and essay. It still wouldn’t prepare them for what Rashida had to deal with which was 2 days before you speak you find out it will be in front of 20,000 people and Barack Obama. OH and another fuck you for everyone, my sister worked for him this summer, talked to him and mentioned our commencement and Rashida’s speech and guess what assholes he said he really liked her speech because it was very realistic and seemed heartfelt and written to the class rather than one trying to impress “America” and the families of you assholes.

    so happy i’m out of this dumb as school

  11. Anonymous

    thank you 10:49. you are saying what a lot of people, a LOT of people, many of whom no longer read wesleying, want to say.

  12. Anonymous

    thank you 10:49. you are saying what a lot of people, a LOT of people, many of whom no longer read wesleying, want to say.

  13. Anonymous

    10:49- The problem was not that her speech mentioned bad things at Wes. The problem was not that it had a few flaws. The problem was that it had , in my and many people’s opinions, a TON of flaws, in that it was all over the place, not well articulated, and not well delivered.

  14. Anonymous

    10:49- The problem was not that her speech mentioned bad things at Wes. The problem was not that it had a few flaws. The problem was that it had , in my and many people’s opinions, a TON of flaws, in that it was all over the place, not well articulated, and not well delivered.

  15. Anonymous

    Glad to know that I was not the only one that thought Rashida’s speech was utter chaos. I could sense the disappointment in the students around me. I’m glad they are willing open up this honor to more students.

  16. Anonymous

    Glad to know that I was not the only one that thought Rashida’s speech was utter chaos. I could sense the disappointment in the students around me. I’m glad they are willing open up this honor to more students.

  17. Anonymous

    get over yourselves. anyone who thinks they could have gotten up in front of the entire class, President roth, Barack Obama and of course the thousands watching around the world, and delivered a flawless speech is fooling themselves. GUESS WHAT? Wes isn’t perfect! And Rashida gave an accurate depiction of that. Yes there were plenty of good times but also the bad..and that’s what shapes your 4 yrs here and who you are at the end of it..so why shy away from that. Its not a reality of the experience I had here. Obama and the rest of the world aren’t idiots. He went to Columbia and Harvard, and I’m pretty sure he can think of times when he experienced racism (cuz he still is!). so, I’m pretty sure he got. Open up your eyes..and get it.

  18. Anonymous

    get over yourselves. anyone who thinks they could have gotten up in front of the entire class, President roth, Barack Obama and of course the thousands watching around the world, and delivered a flawless speech is fooling themselves. GUESS WHAT? Wes isn’t perfect! And Rashida gave an accurate depiction of that. Yes there were plenty of good times but also the bad..and that’s what shapes your 4 yrs here and who you are at the end of it..so why shy away from that. Its not a reality of the experience I had here. Obama and the rest of the world aren’t idiots. He went to Columbia and Harvard, and I’m pretty sure he can think of times when he experienced racism (cuz he still is!). so, I’m pretty sure he got. Open up your eyes..and get it.

  19. Anonymous

    Please please please change this system! We’ve had so many people come through that office who were really good senior class presidents, and really lousy speakers. There are so many Wes kids who are brilliant writers and speakers. . . and I think that the entire student body should be involved and invested in selecting that person.

  20. Anonymous

    Please please please change this system! We’ve had so many people come through that office who were really good senior class presidents, and really lousy speakers. There are so many Wes kids who are brilliant writers and speakers. . . and I think that the entire student body should be involved and invested in selecting that person.

  21. Anonymous

    Rashida’s speech was an embarrassment to Wesleyan. Here we had one of the great speakers of our generation waiting in the wings and our senior had problems with the concepts of “narrative” and “cohesiveness,” not to mention those ever-tough concepts of “noun” and “verb.” Awful.

  22. Anonymous

    Rashida’s speech was an embarrassment to Wesleyan. Here we had one of the great speakers of our generation waiting in the wings and our senior had problems with the concepts of “narrative” and “cohesiveness,” not to mention those ever-tough concepts of “noun” and “verb.” Awful.

  23. sahm

    Ravid should not take this resolution personally. Rashida, on the other hand, should. Her speech was absolutely atrocious. It sounded like she was incredibly drunk, and making it up as she went along. At a time when the community around us thought of us as snobby college kids who “rioted” at fountain, she thoroughly embarrassed us.

  24. sahm

    Ravid should not take this resolution personally. Rashida, on the other hand, should. Her speech was absolutely atrocious. It sounded like she was incredibly drunk, and making it up as she went along. At a time when the community around us thought of us as snobby college kids who “rioted” at fountain, she thoroughly embarrassed us.

  25. Jesse

    Last year’s President speech was crass, poorly-delivered, and generally embarrassing. I agreed with much of what she was trying to say, but she delivered it in a snide, dismissive manner that not only undercut her speech’s content, it reflected poorly on a class of supremely gifted, thoughtful people. 2009 deserved better, and I’m sure an open ballot would have allowed that to be the case.

  26. Jesse

    Last year’s President speech was crass, poorly-delivered, and generally embarrassing. I agreed with much of what she was trying to say, but she delivered it in a snide, dismissive manner that not only undercut her speech’s content, it reflected poorly on a class of supremely gifted, thoughtful people. 2009 deserved better, and I’m sure an open ballot would have allowed that to be the case.

  27. Anonymous

    And why not just have a direct vote, rather than electing reps? That makes about as much sense as the electoral college, perhaps even less.

  28. Anonymous

    And why not just have a direct vote, rather than electing reps? That makes about as much sense as the electoral college, perhaps even less.

  29. Anonymous

    As long as anyone’s choosing, why not do as other schools have done and make it open to apply for anyone who wants to give a speech? Why does it have to be a WSA member?

  30. Anonymous

    As long as anyone’s choosing, why not do as other schools have done and make it open to apply for anyone who wants to give a speech? Why does it have to be a WSA member?

  31. Saul

    Another minor factual correction – the committee selecting the commencement speaker would not be composed of “just a few WSA members” – rather, the committee would be democratically elected by the Senior Class when they vote to elect the Senior Class Officers (including President) at the end of their junior year.Saul CarlinWSA Vice Presidentscarlin at wes

  32. Saul

    Another minor factual correction – the committee selecting the commencement speaker would not be composed of “just a few WSA members” – rather, the committee would be democratically elected by the Senior Class when they vote to elect the Senior Class Officers (including President) at the end of their junior year.

    Saul Carlin
    WSA Vice President
    scarlin at wes

  33. Anonymous

    i agree with 4:35. rashida represented the class and the school, but she did it in a way that in no way sugar coated the experience. the fountain ave incident had a HUGE effect on the class of 08, a very negative effect. earlier experiences of how the school treated traverse sq, confrontations on campus, etc, led us in the class to have a very mixed experience at wes. rashida took the good with the bad, and as a graduating senior i appreciated it.

  34. Anonymous

    i agree with 4:35. rashida represented the class and the school, but she did it in a way that in no way sugar coated the experience. the fountain ave incident had a HUGE effect on the class of 08, a very negative effect. earlier experiences of how the school treated traverse sq, confrontations on campus, etc, led us in the class to have a very mixed experience at wes. rashida took the good with the bad, and as a graduating senior i appreciated it.

  35. Anonymous

    and what if the class president did not want to give a speech but just wanted to organize sr cocktails? then what? who speaks? this is a good system for ensuring that there will always be a process to select a senior speaker and dividing the two skill sets of speech giving and party planning. thank you WSA.

  36. Anonymous

    and what if the class president did not want to give a speech but just wanted to organize sr cocktails? then what? who speaks? this is a good system for ensuring that there will always be a process to select a senior speaker and dividing the two skill sets of speech giving and party planning. thank you WSA.

  37. Bradley Spahn

    I just wanted to make a slight correcton in the post. Under the resolution the WSA is considering, any of the senior class officers would be free to apply to give the commencement address, they would simply be expected to recuse themselves from the selection committee.Should the resolution be passed, I imagine many senior class presidents would decide to apply for the position, and they’d be free to do so. Also, the resolution that was proposed wouldn’t come into effect until the commencement for the class of 2010, so under the current language, Ravid would still be the speaker at this year’s commencement.Please contact me if you have any questions.-Bradley SpahnWSA Coordinatorbspahn (at) wes

  38. Bradley Spahn

    I just wanted to make a slight correcton in the post. Under the resolution the WSA is considering, any of the senior class officers would be free to apply to give the commencement address, they would simply be expected to recuse themselves from the selection committee.

    Should the resolution be passed, I imagine many senior class presidents would decide to apply for the position, and they’d be free to do so. Also, the resolution that was proposed wouldn’t come into effect until the commencement for the class of 2010, so under the current language, Ravid would still be the speaker at this year’s commencement.

    Please contact me if you have any questions.

    -Bradley Spahn
    WSA Coordinator
    bspahn (at) wes

  39. Anonymous

    I like Rashida a lot so maybe my expectations were higher than they should have been, but her speech was a train wreck. I got the sense that it was thrown together while waiting to go through security.

  40. Anonymous

    I like Rashida a lot so maybe my expectations were higher than they should have been, but her speech was a train wreck. I got the sense that it was thrown together while waiting to go through security.

  41. Anonymous

    I’d have to disagree, 4:35. Especially when she laughed about Senior Cocktails being canceled because someone punched a bus driver. It was inappropriate and although I wasn’t in the graduating class, I wouldn’t want the Wesleyan student body to be represented in that way.

  42. Anonymous

    I’d have to disagree, 4:35. Especially when she laughed about Senior Cocktails being canceled because someone punched a bus driver. It was inappropriate and although I wasn’t in the graduating class, I wouldn’t want the Wesleyan student body to be represented in that way.

  43. Anonymous

    Anon 4:35I disagree. Perhaps the word erratic might be offensive, but Rashida’s commencement speech was really lacking given that it was suppose to be so crucial. It didn’t have much substance; more or less she said that the most important thing that the class of 08 took away was the memories and friendships they established. I could have said that in one sentence, but she took eight to ten minutes and kind of made a joke of herself. I think I’d rather be addressed by someone who can deliver a speech that is more complex and nuanced than that. Not that I doubt Ravid can’t do that. But perhaps if students who really think they can deliver an excellent speech then I think it should be submitted to election.

  44. Anonymous

    Anon 4:35
    I disagree. Perhaps the word erratic might be offensive, but Rashida’s commencement speech was really lacking given that it was suppose to be so crucial. It didn’t have much substance; more or less she said that the most important thing that the class of 08 took away was the memories and friendships they established. I could have said that in one sentence, but she took eight to ten minutes and kind of made a joke of herself. I think I’d rather be addressed by someone who can deliver a speech that is more complex and nuanced than that. Not that I doubt Ravid can’t do that. But perhaps if students who really think they can deliver an excellent speech then I think it should be submitted to election.

  45. Anonymous

    im surprised at how brazenly you are willing to put down rashida, and her speech. i feel like she accurately and passionately represented the school, and more importantly her class.

  46. Anonymous

    im surprised at how brazenly you are willing to put down rashida, and her speech. i feel like she accurately and passionately represented the school, and more importantly her class.

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