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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Monday, June 24, 2024
The Echo

Commencement stirs controversy

Gabby Carlson | Co Editor in Chief

The anticipated arrival of Vice President of the United States Mike Pence on campus presents mixed feelings among students, faculty and alumni.

P. Lowell Haines encourages communication when it comes to difference of opinion regarding commencement.

In the faculty meeting Thursday morning, P. Lowell Haines, Taylor University president, announced Pence as the 2019 commencement speaker.

Tracy Manning, vice moderator of faculty, said Haines expressed in his address that Pence coming to campus is a unique opportunity for Taylor. He understood the difficulty it might present in the Taylor community but also highlighted the friend Pence has been to Indiana and Taylor University over the years.

After this, a motion of dissent was made toward the announcement of Pence's address. This motion was seconded by a faculty member. Following the motion, time was allowed when those who expressed dissent and those who did not took turns presenting their points to the faculty present, Manning said.

This motion of dissent was made by Kevin Diller, associate professor of philosophy and religion, which he confirmed Thursday afternoon.

According to Manning, those who expressed dissent had concern that Pence's presence would take away from graduating seniors and make it more about his coming to campus and less about them. They also brought up points regarding race, community and how commencement may not be the right time for him to visit.

Those who did not express dissent voiced how Pence is a prominent Christian politician and how Taylor should be open minded to what he brings to campus, Manning said.

The majority voted in favor of the motion of dissent. The vote was tallied at 61 in favor of Diller's motion, 49 not in favor and 3 abstained from voting. 113 members of faculty were represented.

This vote was not a vote of action, but a motion to express to the board of trustees that the majority of faculty is in disagreement with the decision to invite Pence as the commencement speaker, Manning said.

Alan Blanchard, associate professor of journalism, told The Echo when he spoke at the faculty meeting he referenced John Milton's free marketplace of ideas.

"I suggested a benefit exists from listening to people speak on our campus with diverse views. Even if we do not see eye to eye, and even if the person speaking is the vice president of the United States," Blanchard said. "It's a hallmark of our country to foster the idea and the ideal of free speech. I think our faculty meetings generally are a testimony to our ability to speak freely, agree or disagree on issues, but at the end of day show respect and love for one another."

Mike Hammond, Taylor University provost, provided a response Thursday evening encouraging the Taylor community to remember what and who commencement is for.

"Commencement is a special day for Taylor University," Hammond said. "Above all else, we want to honor our graduates with their diploma and towel. There is always something to be gained from listening, even when we do not expect to find agreement with the speaker. This is an opportunity for our community to hear one another, working through our opinions and differences together."

Students, faculty and alumni have been actively speaking out about this announcement on social media, calling and emailing The Echo and other campus organizations and vocalizing their opinions in person.

An online petition against Pence coming to campus has been created by a Taylor alumni. This petition has over 1,500 signatures as of Thursday evening and the numbers continue to grow.

Danielle Paulson ('05) signed the petition and called The Echo to express her view that Taylor should not have extended a hand toward Pence. She is now a Washington D.C. resident and believes his presence will express Taylor's alignment with his beliefs.

"I vehemently oppose his presence on campus," Paulson said. "I don't believe his morals align with what Taylor University stands for."

Freshman Pia Briz is also not in favor of Pence's presence on campus. Originally from Ecuador, Briz believes the minorities on campus, such as students from other cultures and the LGBT community, already feel like a minority without Pence coming.

"With so much controversy surrounding campus, it is unnecessary to bring in another controversial figure," Priz said.

Along with those who do not agree with Pence's presence on campus, there are some who are enthusiastic.

Tommy Decker ('15) called in and expressed that as much as people are offended by the announcement, there are many celebrating it.

"The fact that a VP is willing to come to Taylor and we are able to bring a man like that who is doing big things for the country is amazing," Decker said. "The call to action for the next generation of believers should be the main focus."

Zack Carter, assistant professor of communication, shares similar sentiment, believing Pence will speak blessings into the lives of graduates.

Many others across the country have voiced their opinion on the subject. Conversation that glorifies God is strongly encouraged by Haines and the administration as controversy arises.

"When you bring someone who is prominent to campus, we should talk about things we have difference of opinions on," Haines said.