North Texas Daily

Speak up on Abbott’s commencement address

Speak up on Abbott’s commencement address

April 08
22:54 2015

The Editorial Board

This Editorial Board is neither excited nor disgruntled with Gov. Greg Abbott delivering the keynote address at the mass commencement this spring. We understand the implications of the governor coming to UNT, but the views of students must be considered first and foremost.

Students and faculty expressed deep botheration when we confirmed the news last week. President Neal Smatresk and the administration should not overlook those concerns.

Firstly, this GOP-controlled Texas Legislature is on the offensive against Denton’s ban on hydraulic fracturing, an effort many UNT students participated in alongside faculty. Currently, the ban is fighting an uphill battle against the state and industry, and Abbott is not relenting in favor of Denton.

Understand the political climate in which Denton sits. The needs of Denton and UNT do not align with those throughout Texas. Denton is a small liberal dot within Denton County, a red county fitting the overall conservatism of Texas.

Furthermore, Abbott does not align with UNT’s majority stance on marriage equality. The governor is not accommodating of marriage equality, and is an active opponent to the cause. There is a very active marriage equality movement at UNT – that’s no secret.

Those two issues alone are enough to catalyze efforts against Abbott’s commencement address, but one other is affecting a large segment of UNT students: immigration reform. As of fall 2014, Hispanics make up 19.52 percent, or 7,061 total, of the student population.

There have been numerous efforts at the statehouse to close and secure the Texas-Mexico border, including some legislation that would eliminate benefits for DREAMers or other immigrants. Currently, Senate Bill 1819, from Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels), would repeal a provision that allows some undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates.

Let us not forget Abbott’s Democratic opponent in last year’s election, Wendy Davis, stopped at UNT during her campaign, indicative of UNT students’ liberal lean.

Students deserve to have a more active role in deciding who will be the speaker. After all, it is the students’ graduation. In the future, administrators should be more proactive in gauging student interest in the speaker, both politically and intellectually.

That said, some degree of respect is owed to the Office of the Governor. Poltics aside, Abbott is due some level of respect, and his words at the lecturn should be openly heard — not necessarily accepted, but heard.

On the different side of the same coin, realize that commencement addresses are opportunites for political statements; Abbott will seize this moment and spread his message in a variety of rhetorical ways.

Like it or not, Abbott has a story of hardship to tell. He was paralyzed and relies largely on a wheelchair. His medical journey affected his life. His tale is one to be heard. Try to put politics aside when he speaks.

Understand this is a huge moment for UNT from a marketing perspective.  The university was quick to point out that the governor’s visit to UNT would be a great way to kick off the 125th anniversary celebration. A visit from the governor is a mark of prestige, one that should be cherished. A healthy relationship with the governor is imperative for a future of academic achievement in this state.

Most importantly, if students feel disrespected with the speaker selection, by all means, they have the duty to express that by civil protest or by Letter to the Editor. Do not allow Abbott and UNT officials to dictate the flow of information. Keep an open mind, but stand firm in your beliefs. Never allow our elected and appointed officials to override what you stand for.

If Abbott is your guy, embrace this. If you don’t want Abbott, let it be known.

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