Scripps Students Super Pissed That Madeline Albright Is Speaking At Commencement
Scripps College students are not happy that former secretary of state and "white feminist and repeated genocide enabler" Madeline Albright will be delivering their commencement address. Scripps is a prestigious all-female school in Claremont, a city on the eastern edge of L.A. County about 30 miles east of downtown, and a member of the Claremont Colleges. Albright, who is scheduled to deliver to deliver the commencement address at the school Saturday, was booked by senior class president Jennie Xu. Protests began shortly after Albright—America's first female secretary of state—was announced as the speaker in February, with students denouncing her as a war criminal for her foreign policy role during the Clinton administration.
According to City News Service, students are also outraged over Albright's remark that there would be "a special place in hell" for women who don't support Hillary Clinton (fwiw, Albright later apologized in a New York Times op-ed). Albright first used that line almost 25 years ago, when she was the United States ambassador to the United Nations and worked closely with the six other female U.N. ambassadors. She has oft-repeated it since, but this was the first time it went viral (at least in the context of Albright saying it; it was also appropriated by Taylor Swift in an ill-advised 2013 dig at Tina Fey and Amy Poehler).
"I definitely think there is a mixed response in regards to Albright speaking," one Scripps senior who asked not to be named but has been active in the campus demonstrations told LAist. "Some students are really excited because she represents women in politics, but a lot of people are upset because we don't think Albright represents the kind of politics that we want to find a home at Scripps. I hope with all the activism that has occurred on campus this year that Scripps is moving towards being a more progressive, inclusive place and those are not two words I think of when I think about Albright."
The Albright outrage isn't limited to [notoriously outrage-prone] college students—the L.A. Times reports that 28 professors have pledged not to participate in the commencement, citing Albright's foreign policy role in the U.S.-led sanctions on Iraq and the U.S.'s failure to intervene during the Rwandan genocide. "She supported several policies that led to the deaths of millions of people," the professors said in a joint letter.
In a phone conversation with LAist, Karen Bergh from Scripps' media office stressed that those professors would still be attending commencement, they just wouldn't be formally participating.
Bergh also said that commencement speakers are chosen and vetted by the students, and that there is usually an effort to involve as wide a range of the student body as possible. Denise Nelson Nash, the college president's chief of staff, told the Times the process was meant to be an empowering opportunity for students.
Lauren Halberg, who graduated from Scripps in 2014 and was a member of the student council during her time at the college, told LAist that from what she's observed, the alumni community is far less concerned about controversial aspects of Albright’s selection in comparison to current students. "I’ve noticed some waves of concern and disappointment, particularly following the letter that professors published speaking against the selection," Halberg said, adding that from her perspective it seems like current students are worried that Albright’s presence will misrepresent what their class stands for.
"As alumni, more removed from the situation, we’re understanding of those concerns, but we’re also aware that a commencement speaker doesn’t define a college," she said. "My personal opinion is that being controversial doesn’t preclude someone from being an interesting or qualified speaker. Scripps women may not look up to Albright for all of her decisions, but we can admire much of what she has accomplished and roads she has paved for women."
Albright will also be delivering commencement addresses Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and the University of Denver, where the Times reports that she has been welcomed without controversy.
"She was our top choice," Xu, who led the selection process, told the Times. "I was really, really ecstatic."