Former Princeton president William G. Bowen took to the podium at Pennsylvania’s Haverford College Sunday not only to usher students on their way out the door, but also to call them “immature” and “arrogant.”
Bowen was referring to the students’ protest of another commencement speaker, who was due to deliver the address before him. While Bowen himself was never an object of protest, the previously chosen speaker, former U.C. Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau, withdrew in the tide of controversy.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Haverford students protested Birgeneau’s role in leading Berkeley police to violently put down a student protest over rising tuition costs in 2011. A group of more than 40 students and three professors—Berkeley alumni—were part of the protest effort that put the brakes on Birgeneau’s appearance.
The students requested that Birgeneau meet nine conditions before appearing, including issuing a public apology and a letter to Haverford students about the events at Berkeley and "what you learned from them."
Bowen called Birgeneau’s withdrawal a “defeat” of Haverford’s Quaker ideals.
"I am disappointed that those who wanted to criticize Birgeneau's handling of events at Berkeley chose to send him such an intemperate list of "demands," said Bowen."In my view, they should have encouraged him to come and engage in a genuine discussion, not to come, tail between his legs, to respond to an indictment that a self-chosen jury had reached without hearing counter-arguments."
In an unexpected twist, Bowen’s remarks were met by a standing ovation in the 2,800 person crowd.