Smith College Commencement Speaker Withdraws After Protests

Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund has decided not to give the May 18 commencement address at Smith College, the highly ranked liberal arts college for women in Northampton, Massachusetts.

About 500 students and faculty members had signed a petition objecting to Lagarde as the commencement speaker. The petition called the IMF a “corrupt system” that was complicit in the oppression and abuse of women around the world.

In a letter to Smith College, Largarde wrote, “to preserve the celebratory spirit of commencement day, I believe it is best to withdraw my participation.”

Kathleen McCartney, the president of Smith College issued a statement which read in part: “Those who objected will be satisfied that their activism has had a desired effect. But at what cost to Smith College?  I stand behind the decision to invite Mme. Lagarde to serve as our speaker and to receive an honorary degree. I want to underscore this fact: An invitation to speak at a commencement is not an endorsement of all views or policies of an individual or the institution she or he leads. Such a test would preclude virtually anyone in public office or position of influence. Moreover, such a test would seem anathema to our core values of free thought and diversity of opinion. I remain committed to leading a college where differing views can be heard and debated with respect.”

Ruth Simmons, the former president of Smith College who later served as president of Brown University, will be the replacement speaker.

Filed Under: Women's Colleges


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