Students at George Mason University protested Tuesday against the institution’s decision to elect Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin as speaker for the beginning of 2023.
About 100 of the 36,000 students enrolled at the university rallied on campus Tuesday to demand that Youngkin be replaced as commencement speaker for the May ceremony. Greg Washington, president of George Mason University, announced last week that the governor would deliver a speech to graduates.
Students protested for about two hours on Tuesday, singing, shouting, waving Pride flags and expressing opposition to Youngkin and his policies on transgender issues, according to Fox 5 DC.
- Advertisement -
The Younkin administration’s proposals include banning transgender students from using bathrooms or participating in sports teams that do not match their biological sex.
STUDENTS OF GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY LAUNCH PETITION AGAINST HOSTING YOUNGKIN AS FIRST SPEAKER
Students at George Mason University protested Tuesday against the institution’s decision to elect Virginia Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin as speaker for the beginning of 2023. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
The protest comes after a petition was launched last week demanding that the university not allow Youngkin to attend or speak at the commencement ceremony at EagleBank Arena on May 18. The petition has nearly 7,000 signatures by Wednesday morning.
“Me and my colleagues do not want the memories of our graduation day to be tarnished by an individual who has harmed and continues to harm the people he serves,” senior Alaina Ruffin wrote on the petition.
- Advertisement -
Ruffin appeared to criticize Youngkin for the proposals about transgender students, as well as the banning of critical race theory and sexually explicit books in schools.
“Selecting a speaker who has passed anti-trans legislation, promoted the abolition of racial equality curricula, and limited the availability of literature in public schools is a deliberate target for historically marginalized communities, including Mason,” Ruffin wrote. . “It is detrimental and disrespectful to the many students who continue to shape GMU’s community to bring in an individual who has also neglected the needs of Virginians.”
Several campus organizations—including the university’s student government, the George Mason Democrats, and BLACC Mason—also released statements opposing the decision to invite Youngkin as a novice speaker.
- Advertisement -
FIRE CALLS ON GEORGE MASON STUDENTS TO RESIST CENSORSHIP FOLLOWING DEMANDS TO CANCEL YOUNGKIN’S INITIAL SPEAK
Greg Washington, president of George Mason University, announced last week that the governor would deliver a commencement speech. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Washington released a statement Monday saying it supports students’ right to protest but disagrees with calls to silence differing viewpoints.
“As president of the largest and most diverse public university in our state, I support the students who speak up and applaud their courage and commitment to standing up for themselves and their communities,” he wrote. “Having said that, I don’t believe we should silence the voices of those we disagree with, especially in this forum where there is no imminent threat from the disagreements.”
He also said the university is committed to its long history of supporting freedom of expression.
“Mason has a long tradition of supporting free speech,” Washington added. “That support extends to every person who gives a kick-off speech. And no speaker can take away our diversity. At Mason, diversity is about more than looking different, it’s about believing differently, thinking differently, expressing differently and having the environment to to do this. At Mason, that environment extends to every student, staff, and faculty member. It also extends to governors.”
About 100 George Mason University students gathered on campus Tuesday to demand that Youngkin be replaced as first speaker. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), a nonprofit organization that aims to protect free speech on college campuses, is also urging students to resist efforts not to invite Youngkin to be the first speaker.
“GMU students may disagree with Governor Glenn Youngkin and are free to express their opposition through protest,” FIRE program officer Anne Marie Tamburro said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “But calls for GMU not to invite Youngkin are calls for censorship that run counter to student intellectual development and GMU’s mission to ’embrace a multitude of people and ideas.'”
Youngkin will address the 2023 graduates on May 18 and would become the last sitting governor of Virginia to deliver a commencement address at George Mason University, along with former governors Jim Gilmore, Mark Warner, Tim Kaine and Terry McAuliffe.