Opinion diversity? Students demand agreeable speakers

John Dunn / AP

The kids at Smith College aren’t used to being lectured on diversity but they’ve earned the talk after they became the latest institution of higher learning that didn’t want to listen to someone with whom they disagree.

International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde withdrew as commencement speaker at the liberal arts college, citing anti-IMF protests from faculty and students.

The students should probably invite one of their own, Dawn Ginnetti, Class of 2014 to give the speech, instead. She’s already got it written and published on Time.com.

I was disappointed when I found out Monday that Lagarde had withdrawn as our commencement speaker. Smith has opened up a world of possibilities to me that I had never dared to dream of before I came here. That being said, we students sometimes neglect to think of diversity in a larger sense. Diversity of thought is equally important. As an educated woman, I should be willing to hear differing views and treat them with the same respect and thoughtfulness that I would want from those whose views I oppose.

I have learned many valuable lessons in my time at Smith, including that the world is a complex place full of differing voices. And I have to learned to recognize the value of each differing voice. However, the greatest lesson that I have learned here is the value of strong women role models. I think what has been forgotten in all of this is that, as women, we should support and raise each other up.

I don’t have to support Lagarde’s beliefs or the organization that she represents, but as a fellow woman I do support her achievements. I support that she has broken barriers and that, because she has done this, other opportunities will be available to me and future generations of women.

At nearby pricey Williams College, some objected to the selection of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as speaker. But he’s still speaking next month despite opposition to his stop-and-frisk policies as mayor.

Last week, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pulled out of speaking at Rutgers University’s commencement after complaints.

In Pennsylvania, Robert J. Birgeneau, former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley has withdrawn as speaker at Haverford College. He was in charge when police used force on students protesting college costs.

Education writer Molly Greenberg suggests the students take a deep breath and get used to the world they’re entering.

Colleges should want their students to know full well that once they leave campus grounds and enter the “real world,” they aren’t going to agree with the ideals of every single person they meet. In fact, the vast majority of the time they will butt heads with those who hold values that contradict their own. That’s why learning about the contrasting cultures and moral beliefs is so important.

We don’t live in a homogeneous society where everyone thinks alike, so why be ignorant of what the “real world” is like? Schools should want to open up the minds of their students to more diverse thinking, and that means sticking with commencement speakers that will challenge soon-to-be graduates.

On the other hand, the world — or at least this country — is an echo chamber, where we choose to listen to those we already agree with and who don’t challenge what we believe.