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Politicizing UC Berkeley Graduation Ruins it for Parents

Stark contrasts between college commencement ceremonies

By Katy Grimes, June 25, 2019 12:40 pm

It is graduation season, and as such, many families are attending college commencement ceremonies. Some schools hire prominent or celebrity commencement speakers, while others keep the ceremony in-house with Chancellors and school presidents doing the honors.

At the commencement of University of California, Berkeley recently, Chancellor Carol T. Christ delivered the commencement speech, along with barbs and jabs at President Donald Trump, according to several parents who attended the graduation ceremony at Memorial Stadium.

These parents spoke to the California Globe on condition of anonymity.

After waiting in line for more than one hour to get through the security screening at Memorial Stadium at Cal Berkeley graduation, the parents said the procession of graduates was already beginning. Soon after, someone ordered all of the gates opened, thwarting their security efforts.

Once inside, following a ceremony honoring the Native-American land the campus sits on, three graduating students of the Class of 2019 sang the National Anthem. “There wasn’t a flag to be seen anywhere,” one of the parents said. “We looked everywhere for a flag and couldn’t find one.” One parent said a flag appeared for about 10-seconds on the Jumbotron screens at either end of the field.

Next up was Chancellor Christ’s speech. “She went on a rant and took several digs at the President,” a parent said. Shortly thereafter, the parents received a text message from their graduating student, which said, “You hear that bullshit our chancellor is spewing?”

Cal Berkeley Chancellor Carol T. Christ (Screen capture)

A youtube video of Chancellor Christ’s speech confirmed what the parents and students said:

Chancellor Carol T. Christ: “Your class saw the rise of the strongest woman candidate for President that the U.S. has ever known, ultimately delivered a stunning defeat in an election that upended American politics. You were witness to the most pitched political battles in decades, over taxes, the economy, Supreme Court nominees, election meddling, trade deals and a border wall. And even saw the government sputter to a halt in the longest shutdown in our country’s history.”

“You spend your days in study, at an institution committed to knowledge, amidst a climate in which alternative facts became acceptable in public discourse, and ‘post-truth’ was the Oxford Dictionary word of the year.”

“As the Black Lives Matter challenged institutional racism in law enforcement. And as the #MeToo movement toppled abusive men in positions of power, and looked to right historical wrongs.” 

“You also saw disdain for immigrants and refugees take hold here and around the world as fear and hatred of ‘the other’ became a dominant theme in many countries.”

“I don’t think a publicly-funded university should do this,” one parent said. “Especially in Memorial Stadium. She was making a mockery of the President and the country.” Memorial Stadium at University of California, Berkeley was funded from public contributions, and named in honor of the men who served in World War I.

“The chancellor used her speech as a political platform,” one parent said. “I was there to support the kids and their efforts — not to have to hear someone drone on about politics.”

And then the parents said they and their graduates left the ceremony early, “out of disgust.”

“College graduation should not be about a political movement on either side,” a parent said.

The parents also told about a part of the Berkeley ceremony in which a professor was awarded a diploma because he had refused to accept his Berkeley diploma in 1974, when Ronald Reagan was Governor of California. He didn’t want Reagan’s signature on his diploma, so he refused it. He was presented with a 2019 diploma replete with current Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature.

One of the parents said in contrast, their family attended graduation ceremonies at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. “It was dramatically different,” the parent said. “Both the California flag and the United States flag were prominently displayed, and not one political statement was made.”

They said the speaker was a CalPoly admissions director, who spoke for only 10 minutes, and talked about the growth and transformation of the graduating class of 2019. “Then the school President spoke briefly, and it was on to the kids.”

Katy Grimes

Katy Grimes, the Editor of the California Globe, is a long-time Investigative Journalist covering the California State Capitol, and the co-author of California's War Against Donald Trump: Who Wins? Who Loses?
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19 thoughts on “Politicizing UC Berkeley Graduation Ruins it for Parents

  1. Don’t send your kids to that university. They will soon change their tune. But as long as you pay those tuitions, you hand them power on a silver mortarboard!

    1. I assure you that if you don’t send your kids there because the Chancellor spoke directly to students’ experiences that you somehow hate to hear, other qualified or more qualified kids will take their place and life goes on. Welcome to the 21st century.

  2. I still don’t understand how college students these days have time for politics. I went to a popular private college in SoCal in the 70’s and after going to class, studying, working part time, and trying to find a date, who has time for politics. Professional students?

    1. The students hear it in the classes of their leftists teachers. Even if it has nothing to do with the class material, the progressive professors will weave politics into their presentations. Heaven forbid the student should question anything the instructor says. It will affect their grade if they don’t parrot back what the professor is selling. Over time, a huge portion of the students will embrace what they’ve heard preached in class. It’s extremely destructive. The students don’t learn much and what they do is tainted.

  3. Not a single word spoken by the Chancellor and quoted in the above story is false or trivial — every one of her statements is both true and important. So what’s the complaint? That the audience of a college graduation shouldn’t be reminded of what’s going on in the world outside campus? That political matters — no matter how pressing, no matter how vital — ought to be ignored in such situations? Or does the complain simply amount to, “Trump is awesome and you better not disagree”? Either way: what snowflakes.

    1. Her opinions have nothing to do with a graduating class with parents and family in the audience.

      She should of left her bias and venomous opinions to herself, instead of ruining the ceremony for 1/2 of the audience.

      1. What venemous opinions are you talking about? Did you even listen to her speech? She was just recounting what happened this year and the last, ie. Facts and the truths. If these are venemous, yes indeed sadly they are. You are just hyper ventilating with a false sense of outrage.
        Do you want her to state alternative facts just because it was your child’s graduation?

    2. BS……it was a one sided political rant. We have such nonsense shoved at us 24/7 by the media. It was a graduation ceremony NOT a political rally. Time and place. This is not going to end well for the left…..most sane individuals despite their party affiliation will not vote for the bat-$#%t crazy Democrats. Funny thing though….. democratic candidates and the DNC haven’t figured that out yet.

    3. Another whiner. The idiot chancellor apparently thought the day was about her opinions. It wasn’t, so shut up and move on to the kids.

    4. Civil propriety is the issue. The ceremony is intended to spotlight the young graduates, their accomplishments, and usually includes advice from elders on building a bright future.

      File this sad event under: “Leftists Ruin Everything They Touch”

    5. I agree, Robert. My take is that, the chancellor was talking in truth about the anti-intellectualism movement and the changing times that seem to make a life dedicated to higher education and a conciousness dedicated to equality an uphill battle. She is simply saying keep fighting the good fight even if it seems a lost cause. Not a smear or a false statement made. Not sure why this article was written other than to appease people who already have the mindset that progressives and the political left are close minded and regurgutators of what they have been told (as opposed to the less palatable viewpoint that many have independently come to the conclusion that the left supports equality, opportunity and civility while the right uses fear as a political tool). It’s a fun exercise to actually listen to what those you dont agree with have to say. Try it sometime

  4. these people are full of hate it cannot be
    trump faults all their lives they have been directing their
    nger either to the wife. boyfriend husband who knows trump has
    nothing to do nada with this bull shit

  5. Berkeley and, along with it, the California university system was once outstanding. It hasn’t been that way in a long time.

  6. “under condition of anonymity.” You can’t speak your mind in California without fear of reprisal from the leftist psychos. See what is happening? “Liberals” have absolutely nothing to do with “liberty”. Anti-fascists (antifa) ARE fascists, and they don’t even know it. I don’t even think they know what the term means. I used to think it was deceptive evil, now I just think they’re stupid.

  7. I had the same thing happen to me when my daughter graduated from Berkeley in 2003. Leon Panetta was the general speaker for the whole-school commencement and put in his obvious low-hanging-fruit barbs against GW Bush (all out of context to the rest of the address, but of course he just needed to fit them in). But my daughter’s English Department commencement was the worst. Some professor from another college dumping on Dick Cheney. He actually got some boo’s, which was encouraging to me.

  8. Chancellor’s reality checks are helpful. Hopefully this reporter will learn a lot by attending a Cal graduation one day. Cal graduation 2019 was a great time.

  9. I am proud that the Chancellor said the right things. I find these parents that are quoted above in the article, offensive. They didn’t want negative politics or any slams on #45 to be included at commencement? What nonsense. They only want THEIR politics to be be praised- I bet they wouldn’t have a problem then.
    Let’s face it, when it’s YOUR guy and your views that are represented, positively, then it’s all fine. It works both ways now, doesn’t it?

  10. I’d hope after four years of higher education these students would not feel intimidated nor offended hearing an opinion not their own. Would it really surprise parents to hear liberal ideas spoken at a college in Berkeley where free speech is very much part of its history? If the chancellor and people with views like hers have to tolerate four years of a conservative President, then others should be tolerant a few of her leftest views as well (live and let live); and some of Pres. Trump’s actions have been so very radically right I’m guessing even he isn’t surprised by people’s adverse reactions.

  11. What a dopey article! The things that the chancellor said are…just facts. She’s not bashing the president or the U.S.A. Stop getting all worked up over nothing.

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