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The Daily Tar Heel

Estroff Way Off With Criticism Of Speaker Pick

Before we left for Spring Break, the chairwoman of the Faculty Council was busy badmouthing our graduation speaker.

And that just ain't right.

Estroff told The Chapel Hill News that UNC's choice of Stuart Scott, ESPN funkmaster and sportscaster, rubbed her the wrong way.

She disapproved.

"I'm disappointed," she said.

"It has to do with my views about the nature of the (Commencement) ceremony.

"It's ironic that this year, at this ultimately academic conferral of degrees, we have a sports anchor."

Allow me to retort.

I'm disappointed with Estroff for making her concerns known to The Chapel Hill News and withholding them from the committee that selected the speaker.

(Especially since she was a member of said committee.)

If we hark back to the days of yesteryear, and we already have, we can easily conclude that past speakers made Commencement a stuffed-shirt snooze-fest.

And while I can only guess at Estroff's views on the "nature of the ceremony," I'm not off-base when I say graduation is about the celebration of what students have accomplished, excitement for their futures, and nostalgia for what they leave behind.

Estroff also has made plain that she is uncomfortable with UNC being associated with sports.

It undermines our sense of academic integrity, and the selection of a "sports anchor" only confirms suspicions.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but UNC is associated with sports. (Note to Estroff: I think it's because our basketball team is pretty good).

But people also know UNC is a top-notch university.

Ask the high school kids who have been denied admission in the last few months despite superfly SAT scores and the like.

Jesus Christ, ask anybody.

Because there is something that makes this University look bad -- when a top-ranking faculty member rude comments about a popular public figure who was excited and shocked to hear he got the invite.

Graduation is about the students. It's not about stroking the egos of pretentious faculty and administrators who don't want feathers ruffled.

It's about making the students excited and giving them something they'll remember.

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It's not about putting them to sleep.

Various faculty member have voiced opinions on the issue. Some applaud the choice, some say live and let live, some don't mind the "nontraditional choice."

But since when is someone who loves this University nontraditional? Since when is a UNC graduate's message nontraditional?

Stuart Scott told The Daily Tar Heel, "I don't want to preach, and I guarantee that I won't be reading from a paper.

"I will be speaking from the heart, and I hope people will gain something from it."

The senior class officers selected a speaker that has gotten students hyped and has made them proud to be part of the class of 2001.

Seniors can relate to Scott -- he graduated in 1987, so he's not old as dirt.

He's a hometown boy who made good.

He's good at his job, millions watch him every night, and he went to our school.

That's inspiring.

I hope Estroff's remarks have not made him feel unwelcome.

I hope he knows that students are with him on this one.

I hope he knows that just his selection has made this graduation better than the ones in the past.

But if I were Stuart Scott, I'd tell Sue Estroff to kiss-off.

Columnist Ashley Stephenson can be reached at

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