Obama To Speak At Barnard Commencement, Angering Columbia Students


President Barack Obama will be Barnard College’s commencement speaker, replacing New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson, who had been already scheduled to speak. The New York Times confirmed yesterday that the White House had contacted Barnard to “offer the president as the commencement speaker.”

The news, which Barnard announced Saturday, prompted outcry from Columbia kids frustrated by the President’s choice to come to their sister school over his own alma mater.

“This is an extraordinary honor for Barnard, and we are thrilled to welcome President Obama for this important moment in the lives of our graduates and their families,” Barnard President Debora Spar said in a statement, according to the Columbia Spectator.

Barnard senior Rebekah Mays told us that the news came as a “complete shock.”

“It’s such an honor for our school,” she said.

Her Columbia counterparts, however, took to voicing their perturbation publicly.

Here’s what some said beneath the announcement article at the Spectator:

And over at Bwog:

Last year the Columbia College Student Council ran the POTUS Project — which included a letter writing campaign — in an effort to bring Obama to their commencement. When Obama’s speaking plans came out that year, a blog post on the Spectrum questioned why Obama, who graduated from the school in 1983, did not choose Columbia:

Barack’s alma mater is noticeably missing from a list that includes Miami Dade College and the Coast Guard Academy. Why have we failed yet again to nab our own alumnus for commencement? Who will be the disappointing Plan-B-sorry-we-couldn’t-get-who-everyone-actually-wanted speaker?

This year, the disappointment is augmented by the fact that Obama is going to be just across the street.

For Columbia senior Amanda Cormier the fact that Obama chose Barnard rather Columbia “seems like a slap in the face to all” of the work that had been done.

“I’m very happy for Barnard,” she said, adding: “It just seems sort of a coy way of Obama saying he didn’t really enjoy his time at Columbia, especially because of the efforts that have been made to get him to speak at Columbia.”

Meanwhile, as the Times pointed, Obama’s choice of a women’s college gives him the platform to win over female voters as women’s rights — specifically the ongoing partisan debate over funding for contraception — are increasingly at the forefront of political dialogue.

Cormier noted, however, Columbia has women too.

“As a Columbia woman, it just seems like, ‘Okay, what about us?” she said.

On the Barnard side of things, Mays said she understands the reactions from Columbia students, however, she would “also be happier to see them excited for us,” she said.

President and Publisher of Harper’s Magazine John MacArthur will speak at Columbia’s Class Day.

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