A week after Mike Pence delivers a commencement address at Liberty University (where else?), he’ll be giving another one at Taylor University, a small Christian school in Upland, Indiana.
That doesn’t sit well with everyone at the school, though. They have no problem with an evangelical Christian speaker, of course, but unlike Liberty, they have no desire to pretend this administration is good for the country. In an essay for the Washington Post, faculty member Amy Peterson notes that the announcement about Pence has created a lot of frustration and fear on campus — not to mention opposition.
As soon as the announcement was made, a professor from the biblical studies, Christian ministries and philosophy department called for a vote of dissent. After some discussion, during which some faculty expressed support for Pence’s presence, comparing him to the biblical figure of Daniel, and others critiqued the decision, 49 faculty voted in favor of Pence addressing the community at commencement. Sixty-one voted in opposition.
Many students and young alumni aren’t happy, either.
In our increasingly polarized political climate, this decision does not encourage unity, but exacerbates existing divisions.
Part of the problem, Peterson says, is that a commencement speaker is supposed to be a role model. And if you grow up to become someone like Mike Pence, you’ve obviously screwed up. He represents cruelty, ignorance, bigotry, and the type of guy who pretends Donald Trump is the Best Person Ever. That’s not the kind of Christianity that Peterson wants students to aspire to — and that’s a statement that has nothing to do with political allegiances.
Giving our commencement stage to Pence sends a message about Taylor’s identity and public witness. As one former student wrote to me in an email, this sends “the explicit message that Mike Pence, whatever private virtues he undoubtedly possesses, serves as a model for the type of Christian leader, witness, and spokesperson in the public sphere that Taylor aspires to produce … and that the rhetoric, action, and cultural vision of the current presidential administration is not only accepted on campus but is seen as something to aspire to by Taylor University as an institution.”
Seriously, was Pete Buttigieg too busy for them?
There’s a petition, already signed by thousands of people, urging the school to rescind the invitation. (If nothing else, it’s a place for alumni to publicly register their disappointment.)
I would love to see students walk out during his speech, as they did at Notre Dame two years ago. Turn your back on him. Bring signs denouncing the administration.
Better yet, graduates and alumni who are frustrated should let the school know they will never donate a dime to the university if Pence is given a platform there. That money is better spent supporting candidates who care about strangers and minorities and the poor and all those other people Jesus talked about. Pence sure as hell doesn’t. And this administration doesn’t seem to give a damn either.