Alternative commencement organized by students opposed to Michael Bloomberg
On May 13, seniors will have to make one final choice — which Commencement ceremony to attend.
A group of students unsatisfied with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s appointment as Commencement speaker — termed the Alternative Commencement Task Force — will hold its own ceremony in the Forest Theatre at the same time.
Members are setting a goal to have at least 100 students and their families attend.
The group wants to create a space for those who are unhappy with Bloomberg’s actions against Occupy Wall Street and the New York Police Department’s monitoring of Muslim students in the Northeast, member Eric Bost said.
Member Kari Dahlgren said UNC should pick speakers for Commencement who don’t adhere to the status quo.
“The people we honor are people who have accumulated massive amounts of wealth and power, and instead we think we should be honoring people who are working to build a better world,” Dahlgren said.
The group has contacted and arranged for three alternative speakers to speak at its ceremony.
They include Kathy Kelly, a peace activist, Charles Eisenstein, author of the book Sacred Economics, and Richard Muhammad, a member of Occupy Wall Street.
“Sacred Economics, the book that (Eisenstein) wrote, deals with the way that we define value and the way that we spend money and the way that we relate to one another,” member Alanna Davis said.
“This topic of value has really become more pertinent recently as we focus on our economy and think about what money really means,” she said.
The alternative option has not sparked controversy among those working on the University-sponsored ceremony at Kenan Stadium, and members of the alternative group said they are not trying to disrupt it.
“It’s a great idea,” said senior class vice president Mohammad Saad. “If the options were either go to alternative Commencement or not go at all, I’d rather people go to alternative Commencement,” he said.
Ron Strauss, executive associate provost and head of the Commencement committee, said in an email that he did not know if an alternative Commencement has ever happened before, but that he embraces the students’ rights to disagree.
He added that they do not need to attend the official Commencement to graduate.
“When Carolina invites an active political leader to serve as a Commencement speaker, it is always possible that some members of the student body will not endorse that selection,” he said.
“We embrace the willingness to express differing political and social views and believe that freedom of expression is core to a lively academic community.”
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