Staff Editorial: Speaker satisfies

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April 1, 2008

12:21 PM

A graduation speaker should inspire. A graduation speaker should motivate. A graduation speaker should be someone so incredibly famous that his or her name resonates from the jungles of Cameroon to the peaks of Tajikistan. Or at least that’s the vibe we’re getting from students on campus. Apparently, Mike Tomlin doesn’t measure up to those standards — and he’s not Tony Blair.

p. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s reflect on the absurdity of this discontent. For the most part, naysayers simply ignore two key aspects of the selection process: Tomlin’s considerable achievements and the College’s commitment to attracting speakers with its prestige, not with its money.

p. We stand behind the College and the numerous other elite universities that eschew paying commencement speakers. In fact, only a small percentage of universities opt to compensate speakers. If the College has considered jumping off the bandwagon, we can take heart, for once, that its lack of fiscal resources prevents it from doing so.

p. Spending $50,000 on a celebrity flush with cash and not a new professor would rankle even the Us Weekly die-hards on campus. And given our record of drawing illustrious speakers without offering a dime, resorting to cash incentives could harm our prestige, not enhance it.

p. Bringing Tomlin, who is one of only six black NFL coaches, extends that tradition. Not only is the man one of our most distinguished alumni, but he is also a stand-out among the ranks of NFL head coaches. Old white men have long called the shots in America’s most popular sport, but Tomlin’s talent and ability vaulted him to Pittsburgh’s top spot, at the age of 36, making him the second-youngest coach in the league. We also suspect the leader of a celebrated football team might just know a thing or two about motivational speeches.

p. Too bad they haven’t heard of him in Tajikistan.

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