A petition was signed by over 5,000 people calling for George Mason University’s leadership to withdraw their invitation to Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, to deliver the spring commencement speech.
Alaina Ruffin, a left-wing activist, created the petition on change.org. She states that her classmates “do not wish the memories of graduation day to be clouded by an individual which has harmed or continues to harm people he serves,” before citing typical buzzwords against all Republican politicians.
GMU has failed to address the needs of students since before this announcement. GMU administration takes pride in the diversity of its student body. This includes allowing homophobic and transphobic, racist, and/or anti–abortion groups on campus to harass passersby and ignoring student and student organizations that request assistance. However, the administration has failed these students to be protected and protected from harm.
The petition cites several pieces of Youngkin legislation, including the prohibition of critical race theory teaching and the passage of anti-trans legislation. It also claims that Youngkin’s presence at the school undermines its commitment to diversity.
Mason’s historically marginalized communities are being targeted by selecting a speaker who has passed anti-trans legislation and promoted the elimination of racial equality curricula. It is disrespectful and harmful to the many students that shape GMU’s community to hire someone who has not considered the needs of Virginians.
George Mason University is proud to be one of the “most diverse institutions in the Commonwealth.” However, Governor Youngkin was chosen as the Commencement speaker this year. This undermines the University’s supposed values of focusing on students’ experiences and overall well-being. The University has once again abandoned these principles in order to satisfy its own desires to please the powerful few.
Many of the petition’s supporters, who do not live or attend Virginia University, expressed outrage at this decision. They claimed that they felt ignored by the university.
Jasmine Okidi, Fairfax, Virginia, wrote that she was considering attending commencement. After having worked so hard to earn my degree, I feel completely disrespected at the University. This speaker will prevent many students from enjoying a celebratory commencement.
Sean Simmons, a student, said that he was a History and Women and Gender Studies major. “This man opposes everything I believe and am as a student. His politics attack my majors, and my very being. George Mason University cannot claim to be a university that values diversity and freedom while supporting such a man as a commencement speaker.
Youngkin won the Virginia Governor’s Race against the former Governor, despite the claims of left-wing activists. Terry McAuliffe has a high approval rating in a state that is overwhelmingly Democrat. A Mason Dixon survey conducted last month found that Youngkin is liked by 56 percent of Virginians, while 31 percent disapprove. Youngkin’s highest approval score since he took office in early 2022 is 25 points. This has led to speculation about whether he might run for the presidency.
Virginia voted for every Democratic presidential nominee since Barack Obama in 2008. However, new polls indicate that Biden and the party overall are losing ground. The Mason-Dixon survey showed that Biden was only 45% approved and 52 percent disapproved. A separate survey conducted by Christopher Newport found that 73 percent of Virginians feel the country is headed in the wrong direction.