Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

University of Georgia president and composer withdraws Clarence Thomas invitation

Blog readers, I have surreptitiously obtained a pre-release copy of a letter from the renown composer and President of the University of Georgia, John Adams to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas withdrawing an invitation to Judge Thomas as the UG commencement speaker.  The letter follows, expletives are deleted.

Dear Justice Thomas,

It is with a deep sense of regret that I now write to you withdrawing my invitation to you to be the graduation speaker for the Spring 2008 UGA commencement.  Such is no easy task for me.  But as President of a great university I must be responsive to the concerns and issues raised by the UGA faculty.

As you know, the University of Georgia has been subject to a number of sexual harassment cases this past academic year.  And as it has been pointed out by Psychology Professor Pamela Pick and many others, having a speaker such as yourself as a commencement speaker cannot help but bring to the surface angry feelings concerning these cases.  No matter that you have denied being involved in any form of sexual harassment, no matter that you have never been charged with sexual harassment, no matter that you had been thoroughly vetted by the US Senate on this issue as part of your confirmation process for the U.S. Supreme Court, I must give priority to the sensitivities of the faculty and students of the University of Georgia.  Priority must be given to the facilitation of a campus culture of tranquility and comfort.  Adversarial debate and discussion certainly has its place in the courts of our great land, but an adversarial campus culture can only function to hinder education and lead to a hostile learning environment.

And very importantly I find that the UGA faculty is genuinely bitter about your speaking at UGA.  Unquestionably an ignored faculty will become  a bitter faculty.   And it is in this context that I tell you that terminating your invitation in the name of our faculty, provides our faculty with something to believe and in the present case they can believe in themselves, that they can make a difference.  As you know, Justice Thomas, all people need something, some idea, some ideal to cling to.

As for myself, I must confess to you that this whole process has been very disheartening for me.  The truth is that I initially selected another speaker, a speaker who had been a crusader for financial and moral justice in America.  And so I must tell you that I withdrew the invitation to Governor Spitzer in a state of complete shock.  Now to have to sacrifice a Georgia native son, a wise man of few words, an esteemed Supreme Court Justice who has even been featured on 60 Minutes, is a most burdensome task.

I also must tell you that in selecting a replacement for you as commencement speaker, I consulted with some of most erudite persons in America.  It should bring some satisfaction to you that in choosing your replacement I relied heavily on the advice of your colleague Antonin Scalia and TV newspersons Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric.  I selected a person who has become an icon for many in America and, has respect for the constitutional limits imposed on him which prevents his pursuing the dream of becoming President of the United States.  Finally, the fact is that he has a close working relationship with the Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, and has a long and continuing friendship with PBS magnet Charlie Rose, made this decision a bit easier for me. 

So I will be welcoming as the UGA commencement speaker, the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Most sincerely,

John Adams, Composer and President
University of Georgia

If you wish, you can write to me directly at dankprofessor@msn.com
Guest commentaries should also be submitted for consideration
to the same email address.

Barry M. Dank aka the dankprofessor™
© Copyright 2008

April 28, 2008 - Posted by | ethics, higher education, political correctness, sexual harassment, sexual politics, University of Georgia

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