:: Why Have An Alternative Commencement?::
First it is important to recognize that a commencement address is different from other speaking engagements on campus. A commencement address is not a space for open dialogue between varying points of view. Instead a commencement address is intended to give parting words of wisdom as students graduate, therefore a commencement speaker should represent positive values of success and wisdom. The speaker also receives an honorary degree from the University; therefore, the university is making a statement that this speaker embodies values that should be honored.
In August 2011, before the Occupy Movement had taken shape, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg was announced as the commencement speaker for UNC's 2012 ceremony. We do not support the University's decision to honor Mayor Bloomberg as the commencement address speaker because we believe that he does not represent or embody the values of UNC’s mission to “improve society” which we interpret to mean building a more equitable, democratic, and community-rich world. Instead Bloomberg represents the power of money in politics and the media. His success is measured in the accumulation of power and wealth, rather than in a positive contribution to justice. In solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement, we condemn Mayor Bloomberg's actions against the peaceful protests at Zuccotti Park. Mayor Bloomberg is not the speaker that should inspire us as we enter the next phrase of our lives.
Although our initial action is a petition to revoke Bloomberg's invitation as commencement speaker, our ultimate goal is to create an alternate commencement ceremony. Rather than disrupting a ceremony that is important to many UNC students and their families, we want to create a positive and meaningful alternative. The alternative commencement ceremony will be open to any students, families, faculty, or members of the larger community that wish to participate. We have received positive support from faculty members, students, and members of the community (including Occupy Chapel Hill).
Students in the graduating class of 2012 deserve a commencement address in line with their values to celebrate their achievements, and speakers that can inspire them as they enter the next phrase of their lives. The alternative commencement ceremony is an invitation to not accept the status quo but challenge it with new alternatives.