Highly Politicizing Graduation

Katie Pavlich
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Posted: May 17, 2010 1:20 PM
After driving and flying for hundreds of miles, paying thousands of dollars in tuition money, and providing endless amounts of moral support, parents didn't hear about the mile stones and accomplishments the graduating seniors from the University of Arizona made, but got a political speech instead at the graduation ceremony for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.  

According to the UA website, Professor Sandra K. Soto is the Director of Graduate Studies and Co-coordinator of the Chicana/Latina Studies Concentration in the Department of Women's Studeis, and affiliate faculty of English, Mexican American Studies, and Latin American Studies. Her interdisciplinary research agenda draws on Chicana/o and Latina/o literary and cultural studies, queer thepry, and gender studies. She is the author of the book Reading Chican@ Like a Queer. 

What her biography doesn't mention is that she is a veteran political activist with a strong stance against Governor Jan Brewer, SB 1070, and a new state bill, HB 2281, recently signed into law that bans ethnic studies programs favoring one particular group of people, such as the La Raza/Chicano studies program in the Tucson Unified School District. 

Professor Soto was chosen by the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences to give the keynote address at the commencement ceremony and apparently Professor Soto didn't understand graduation day wasn't the place for the type of speech she gave. She used the podium as platform in front of thousands of graduates and parents to push her leftist agenda as a last desperate attempt to indoctrinate students, saying SB 1070 provokes racial tension, and went on and on about how she protested peacefully and beautifully with middle and high school students as they made a human chain around the TUSD headquarters. Middle school? High School? Wasn't this a college graduation? Yes, it indeed was. 

The new Arizona law generally known as SB 1070 is considered the strictest, anti-immigrant legislation in the country, and is explicitly intended to drive illegal immigrants out of the country. One reason it has instigated a boycott is because to a lot of people, myself included, it appears to not only invite, but require the police to engage in racial profiling," she said. Maybe Professor Soto should use her research skills and read the bill. 

It was appalling to me as a graduate, for this woman to turn a day of reward for hard work into a political rant about a bill that the majority of Arizonans and the country support. However, the most amazing part of the entire speech was the moment when Professor Soto was being booed so loudly by parents that she had to quit speaking and the Dean of the College of Social and Behavior Sciences, J.P. Jones III, got up and said directly to the parents, not to Professor Soto spewing political and non-factual speech at the podium, "Please, please, civil discourse please, okay? Thank you very much." But really it shouldn't have been surprising considering he claimed during his speech beforehand that we as the class of 2010 need to embrace diversity, "especially at this particular time in Arizona." In the amateur video below, you will see numerous members of the faculty applauding Professor Soto at the conclusion of her speech, and I assume if they don't have a problem with her political speech at graduation, they definitely don't have a problem with it in her classroom. 

Fun fact: Professor Soto teaches in the same department as Professor V. Spike Peterson, who was exposed by David Horowitz in his book One-Party Classroom. 

Professor Soto managed to turn the focus of a day that should be on students, to a focus on political issues and herself. There is a place for political speech and opinion, but graduation day is not it. 

The University of Arizona external communications department has said they will not be making a statement about the video.