Rick Snyder to speak at U-M’s April 30 commencement

When I graduated from U-M, Hillary Clinton was our commencement speaker. I don’t recall there being protesters outside, but she wasn’t a popular choice. There was quite a bit of debate on campus after the initial announcement, and, then, during her speech, which was delivered in the U-M stadium, I remember that there was a plane flying overhead, dragging along a banner saying something about abortion. I can’t remember the exact phrase, but it was something offensive. I think it may have been something like, “How many babies have you killed, Hillary?” This would have been in 1993.

ricksnyderWell, today, the University of Michigan announced their Spring 2011 speaker, and, again, it was a somewhat polarizing political figure. This time, we were told, the person addressing the new U-M graduates would be none other than Governor Rick Snyder, a three time U-M graduate himself. (Snyder has an undergraduate degree, an MBA, and a Law degree from Michigan. He will be receiving an honorary doctorate at the ceremony, alongside U.S. Rep Vernon Ehlers, Spike Lee, Bill Ford Jr. and U-M donor Stephen Ross.)

Given his controversial budget proposals and the national attention that he’s been garnering of late with regard to the whole “financial martial law” thing, the news, as you might expect, wasn’t greeted enthusiastically across the campus. Among other things, a student by the name of Rick Durance started an online petition asking the University administration to reconsider their decision this afternoon. As of a few minutes ago it had already been signed by close to 2,500 students, faculty and staff members. Furthermore, a group has formed on Facebook to promote a rally on the Diag scheduled for Wednesday, March 16 at 1:00 PM. So far, 628 people had RSVP’d to say that they’d be attending.

Personally, I rather like the idea that he’ll be speaking. I think that universities should be the kinds of places where people of different political persuasions (within reason) come together to discuss opposing views. And, to his credit, I like that Snyder has agreed to come and talk to the University community after making it clear that he intended to cut the State’s education expenditures even more drastically. And, personally, I’m curious to hear his sales pitch to students as to why they should stay here in Michigan after graduation and help rebuild the state. At the same, though, I’m also looking forward to seeing what kind of organized protest he’ll meet at the stadium. I don’t suspect that we’ll get anywhere near 80,000 people, like they just did in Madison, but it would be great if people turned out in big numbers to express their opposition. And that wouldn’t happen if we had someone like an astronaut delivering the speech. I guess you could say I just like seeing Democracy in action. And, from what I can tell, things are lining up to make April 30 a pretty significant day in that regard.

Here, for those of you who are curious, is the text of that petition I mentioned earlier.

Whereas: The Governor has had a position on reducing higher education funding to public schools, including primary, secondary, and post-secondary,

Whereas: the Governor has made a controversial decision about authority of elected officials affecting a number of Michigan residents, including University of Michigan students,

Be it therefore resolved that we feel that Governor Richard Snyder should not be the commencement speaker for the graduation ceremony on April 30th, 2011.

Be it further resolved that we feel we should consider other speakers including Anderson Cooper, who publicly defended Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong, or Shelton “Spike” Lee, who is receiving an honorary degree from the University.

Be it finally resolved that the University of Michigan Regents and President should consider beginning a policy of not inviting sitting elected officials to speak at graduation ceremonies in order to reduce conflicts among the graduating seniors.

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  1. Jim
    Posted March 14, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Apologies if this is off topic, but here’s Michael Moore’s call to protest in Lansing on Wednesday:

  2. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    “Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for Snyder, said in an e-mail: ‘The governor appreciates and strongly respects this exercise in democracy. But he’s also committed to forging ahead and tackling misinformation and the tough issues, like he said he’d do, and building a solid and strong Michigan that works for everyone [who makes over $300,000 per year]. The proposed budget and tax plan is based on fairness and preserving core safety net services while improving and strengthening our economy so ALL [corporations] can prosper and benefit.’ “

  3. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    By the way:



  4. Heidi
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Even the students (well some of them) don’t want him there:

  5. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Apparently Rick is also running a TV commercial that shows Pure White Children–to the sound of cute muzak–begging their grandparents to not fuck them over. “Please, gramma, support Governor Snyder, so we can have a future . . .”

  6. Edward
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    We should have a competition to come up with a good slogan to fly behind the plane during the commencement.

  7. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink


  8. MMoore by proxy
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Here’s the letter to which Jim was referring.

    Fellow Michiganders (and honorary Michiganders around the world):

    The call has gone out and I’m asking everyone who can to take Wednesday off and head to the State Capitol in Lansing to protest the cruel and downright frightening legislation currently being jammed down our throats.

    What is most shocking to many is that the new governor, who ran against the Tea Party and defeated the right wing of his party in the primaries — and then ran in the general election as “just a nerd from Ann Arbor” who was a moderate, not an ideologue — has pulled off one of the biggest Jekyll and Hyde ruses I’ve ever seen in electoral politics.

    Governor Snyder, once elected, yanked off his nice-guy mask to reveal that he is in fact a multi-millionaire hell-bent on destroying our state and turning it over to his buddies from Wall Street.

    In just 8 short weeks he has:

    * Gotten the House and Senate to pass bills giving him “Emergency Management” powers such as the ability to appoint a corporation or a CEO who could literally dissolve town governments or school boards, fire the elected officials, nullify any local law and run your local governmental entity. That company then would have the power to immediately declare all collective bargaining contracts null and void.

    * Proposed giving business a whopping 86% tax cut while raising personal taxes by 31%! And much of that tax hike he believes should be shouldered by — I kid you not — senior citizens and the poor! He says these two groups have not been “sharing the sacrifice” the rest of us have been burdened with. So his budget proposes a $1.8 billion tax CUT for business and a $1.75 billion tax INCREASE for the rest of us, much of it from the poor, seniors and working people — even though the top 1% in Michigan ALREADY pay a lower state tax rate than everyone else does!

    * Together with the legislature, introduced over 40 anti-labor bills in just the first two months of this session! They have wasted no time and have caught most people off guard. Much of this is being rushed through right now before you have a chance to raise your voice in objection.

    These actions are breathtaking when you realize they will drive our already battered state straight into the ground. What we needed right now was an inspiring leader to help us reinvent Michigan and to find creative ways to create new jobs and lift us out of our economic depression. The rest of the country may call what they’re experiencing the “Great Recession,” but few argue that Michigan is suffering a “one-state Depression.”

    I know many of you are filled with a great sense of despair and a justifiable loss of hope these days in Michigan. But you must not let things get even worse. You must stand up against these Draconian measures and this outrageous attempt to rip our democratic rights from us by turning our state over to well-paid hacks from Wall Street and corporate America. They see our state as one big fire sale — and they are licking their chops to get their hands on what is still a state rich in natural resources and industrial infrastructure.

    Please show up at noon on Wednesday for our first mega-rally against this insanity. Hundreds of groups are already organizing car pools and buses. You can right now just declare yourself an organizer and get your friends and neighbors committed to being in Lansing. If ever there were a day to call in sick, Wednesday is it (because this IS sick). Students, if ever there were a day to cut class and become a participant in your democracy, Wednesday is it. This event needs to be HUGE — and I believe it will be if you will simply be there and take a stand.

    Much attention has been paid to Wisconsin in recent weeks. Well, they got nothing on what’s going on here in Michigan. Rick Snyder is Scott Walker on steroids. There’s never been what even the AARP calls “an all-out attack” like this on us. Trust me, you will rue the day you sat home and did nothing while thieves posing as politicians stole your Great Lakes State from you.

    Don’t let it happen. Be at the Capitol by noon on Wednesday for the largest demonstration the state has ever seen.

    Go Spartans! Go Wolverines! Go Everyone Else In Between!

    Michael Moore

  9. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:38 am | Permalink


  10. K2
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:39 am | Permalink


  11. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink


  12. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink


  13. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink


  14. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink


  15. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:47 am | Permalink


  16. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:53 am | Permalink


  17. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink


  18. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink


  19. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 10:10 am | Permalink


  20. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink


  21. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 10:18 am | Permalink


  22. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink


  23. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 10:51 am | Permalink


  24. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 10:56 am | Permalink


  25. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 10:57 am | Permalink


  26. applejack
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I guess the real lesson here is that when a politician is vague about what their plan is once they are elected it doesn’t mean that they don’t have a plan. It just means that they know they won’t be elected if they give the details.

  27. Someone
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    This is the mistake of the left. Everyone deserves to be heard. I love you Mark, but would you still wait to hear my viewpoint if I opened the conversation by lighting my poop on fire and throwing it at you?

    I just can’t support giving dishonest and disingenuous people equal time.

  28. Kim
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Someone on AA.com made a good observation.

    So Snyder was great beneficiary of public funds when he was going through school. The tax rate for the rich was also much higher when he was growing up… Where would these millionaires be without being subsidized by our tax dollars?

    The myth of the self-made man lives on!

  29. K2
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Permalink


  30. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Permalink


  31. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Okay, enough of my airplane banners. Here is this from Kos:


  32. missypsi
    Posted March 15, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    There is a facebook group organized by students, protesting the choice of Snyder for commencement speaker.

  33. Posted March 15, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing for him to speak. First, I don’t think he’s going to convince anyone to change sides. And, second, the way I see it, it’s a great opportunity to bring together those who, like me, disagrees with quite a bit of what he’s doing. People have over six weeks to organize, and I have every reason to believe that the protest, if done right, could really help turn the tide in the right direction.

    And here’s my submission.


  34. Posted March 16, 2011 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    I think he’s a good choice. Personally, I tire of rightists who continually claim that Universities marginalize Republicans and Conservative views.

    Everyone needs to be heard. Noone has to agree with anything he says.

  35. Edward
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    The banner could simply say, “Psst…. He’s raising your tuition.”

    From the Michigan Messenger:

    Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed budget contains even deeper cuts in state funding for public universities than he had mentioned when he announced the plan a few weeks ago.

    The Detroit News reports:

    University officials are upset a projected 15 percent cut in state aid is really much more — and some say Gov. Rick Snyder misled them.

    As colleges poured through the fine print of the budget plan released two weeks ago, they discovered the cuts will be an average 21 percent — possibly the biggest cut ever to higher education in the state — and range from 23 percent for Central Michigan University to 19 percent for Eastern Michigan University. Since 1979, the largest cut in state aid was 8.5 percent, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency . Snyder told lawmakers there would be an across-the-board 15 percent cut to Michigan’s 15 state universities. He also recommended $83 million in “tuition incentive grants” accessible to universities who hold a cap on tuition hikes. But universities have learned the incentive is more stick than carrot: If they hold tuition hikes at or below 7.1 percent, an incentive grant will reduce their cut to 15 percent.


  36. Jeff
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Would love to see our town at tomorrow’s EMU demo.

  37. Jsam
    Posted March 16, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    Sometimes it is MOST important to take stand, decorum be damned.
    The egomaniac that is Slick Rick needs to get the message that he cannot soft peddle his union-busting, 100% increase in tax to the elderly, increase in tax to the working poor. And this is not just “we don’t like you Slick Rick”. This is serious life threatening stuff. Anyone catch the piece on Channel 7 news showing the elderly man with colon and liver cancer who had just had his car repossessed because his payment was 15 minutes late? This is a human being that Snyder wants to hit with a 100% tax increase so he can hand it over to major corporations.
    This is a threat to quality of human life for many elderly. Why would you invite a person who does this to speak at a graduation of any sort? He should be on the campus “banned” list.

  38. Meta
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    The UM Student Assembly had voted in support of having Snyder be the commencement speaker.


    The Board of Regents agreed, making it official yesterday.

  39. Ez Marsay
    Posted March 18, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    They’ll do whatever it takes to ensure he chops as little as possible from UM budget. But as others have already disclosed, he’d told Mary Sue Coleman a while ago that he intended to cut most from CMU, EMU, and Wayne–UM not really his priority. Does this suggest racism? I think so. But more important, it suggests Snyder’s waging, above all else, class war.

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