Xavier University , Louisiana, UN Ambassador

Xavier University Of Louisiana Cancels UN Ambassador’s Commencement Speech Following Student Outrage 

Students are taking a stand.

Xavier University of Louisiana canceled its upcoming commencement address by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield after a number of students objected. 

In an email on May 8, HBCU President Reynold Verret announced the decision reversal to faculty, staff, and students, stating he wants students to enjoy this moment without disruption. “Everyone’s goal is to have a commencement ceremony that appropriately honors the graduates and their achievements,” Verret wrote. 

“The vast majority of students want to be able to enjoy a commencement ceremony free of disruptions. Therefore, we will not be moving forward with the commencement speaker as originally planned.”

Students rejected Thomas-Greenfield’s appearance due to past positions by the U.S. on the war in Gaza. Before presenting a resolution in March to the U.N.’s Security Council, calling for the “immediate and sustained ceasefire in Gaza,” the U.S. vetoed three ceasefire resolutions proposed by other countries. In one explanation of the veto, the ambassador claimed the U.S. could not support ceasefire resolutions without mentioning Israel’s right to self-defense. 

She also explained the U.S. could not support a ceasefire until Hamas freed hostages from the Oct. 7 attack. 

The announcement was initially made on May 5, according to The Hill. Not long after it was revealed Thomas-Greenfield would be the speaker, a petition appeared with 1,796 signatures demanding a new commencement speaker. “Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield has repeatedly voted against a ceasefire in Gaza, resulting in the decimation of all 13 universities in Gaza, the loss of over 30,000 lives with thousands more remaining in the rubble from violence, and the continuation of the genocide in Gaza,” the petition reads.  

“Palestinians in Gaza draw upon the experiences of their brothers and sisters in America during the segregation era.” 

In addition to a new speaker, petition supporters are asking the school to “amplify the calls for a ceasefire to prevent the further killing of innocent civilians and call for humanitarian aid to be delivered to Gazans” as well as honor “its Muslim, Jewish, and Christian students, its Arab and non-Arab students, its Black and Brown students, and its students who stand for equity, justice, and peace by standing amongst us as we educate the masses and speak out against oppression.”

Student Government Association President Chase Patterson applauded the president’s decision, stating he’s glad the administration actually listened to student’s concerns. “We are grateful that President Verret actually listened to our call,” Patterson said. 

“This does make me optimistic that students will continue to support us and we will continue to support them and that the administration will continue to listen to us.”

While Verret called the cancellation a “regrettable conclusion,” he alluded that the decision was made amicably with the ambassador. However, this isn’t the first school to reject the ambassador’s appearance. 

President of the University of Vermont, Suresh Garimella, also canceled the ambassador’s commencement speech. “It is with regret that I share that our planned speaker, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, will not be joining us to deliver the Commencement address,” Garimella wrote in an email to the school community.

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