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Tipsheet

Sorry, College Dems: George Mason University Won't 'Silence' Glenn Youngkin

AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File

This article has been updated to reflect how ridiculous the change.org petition against Youngkin speaking is, as well as to highlight how many of the petitioners are not even from Virginia, where Youngkin governs and where GMU is located. 

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As woke as university administration, there's been something of a glimmer of hope as of late that they will at least stand for sanity. Then again, what they must contend with is nothing sort of insanity from both students and faculty. As Leah covered earlier on Wednesday, a professor at Wayne State University was referred to the police and suspended for quite the threatening social media post. And, at George Mason University (GMU), the administration is standing by its decision to have selected Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) as commencement speaker, despite outcry from Democrats at Mason.

While one wouldn't expect the Democrats on campus to have selected the Republican governor as their first choice for their commencement speaker, he is the governor of Virginia, where GMU, the largest public university in the commonwealth, is located. It's within the realm of possibility to believe that the university would have invited Youngkin's Democratic opponent, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, to speak if he had been elected, but he was not. McAuliffe did address the class of 2016, though, when he was in office. 

A Monday statement from President Gregory Washington, "What it means to be a patriot," highlighted such a distinction of it being the largest public university in the commonwealth and also referred to GMU as the "most diverse public university" in Virginia. Diversity, as these students evidently refuse understand, also applies to diversity of speech, expression, and politics. 

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His statement went on to raise several more thoughtful points:

Is [Youngkin's] inclusion in commencement a betrayal of our core identity of diversity, and commitment to inclusivity? Or are his presence and the passionate objections it has inspired actually the purest reflections of who we are as Mason Patriots?

Mason students come by their objections to the Governor authentically, and their rejection of his positions are rooted in very real, deeply personal, often painful life experiences. It is my sincere hope that our students use this opportunity to share their stories, challenges and triumphs, and that the Governor will hear their opinions, respectfully consider and reflect on them, and consider that feedback when making, amending or changing his administration’s policies. 

This discourse highlights one of the fundamental purposes of a university. It is a place to engage, debate, and educate on topics where we agree and disagree, sometimes profoundly. If the Governor’s speech were to be cancelled, it is unlikely that such public attention would be paid to the policies students so passionately oppose.

This is vital because our students must prepare to inherit and lead a world with endless conflicts and divisions. Would we really be preparing them for that world if we removed the opportunities for them to safely engage in debate and discourse? 

Or is it better to expose them to people and ideas that may offend or challenge them, but in an environment of steadfast support and safety, so they may develop the agency to effectively express and advocate for themselves once they leave the university environment?

I believe it is the latter. If we teach that the only way to deal with opposition is to suppress it, we rob students of the very tools they will need to build an effective society. 

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Such points are lost on the angry students, though. Since Washington's statement, the Democrats at Mason's Twitter account has posted pictures and coverage of their protests against Youngkin. One tweet declares they "won't be silenced," though it's worth noting Washington in his statement acknowledged he had "heard from both" those opposed to the governor speaking and those opposed.

The group's retweets also suggested the students believe that Fairfax, where the university is located, is the only part of Virginia that matters in elections. Fairfax is heavily populated, and is one of the most democratic localities not only in the commonwealth but the country. That ought to be irrelevant to the governor speaking at the university, but it's also worth pointing out that Youngkin actually overperformed in the area as part of his victory in 2021. Such facts don't fit the students' narrative, though. 

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The account also tweeted and retweeted mockery of Washington's handling of the matter.


While the students may appear to have a loud and hyped up response, the numbers of those protesting represent a very small amount of the student body. Fox 5 highlighted about 100 students, but the student body is over 36,000 students. 

Worse than the students who can't handle true diversity is that many of those who have signed the change.org petition appear to be non-students. Many are even from out of state, and thus had no business in voting to elect Youngkin or not to the state office he holds.

Many comments from those who signed are unfortunately about as immature as you'd expect. "F**k that hoe," Kiva Brazier from North Carolina wrote, though the expletive was spelled out. Nancy Hawkins from Maryland inexplicably claimed "Youngkin does not believe in free speech." Cathy Knights from Florida made a particularly bold claim that "It's spreading through all red states and is just racism and hatred dressed up as freedom." Virginia has been considered a purple or even blue state. 

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The petition, created by Alaina Ruffin, who describes herself as a "prospective alumna," further highlights how insufferably aggrieved and entitled college students claim to be, and how tiring it all is, as it's worth wondering how these ill-equipped young people will be able to function in the real world. A significant portion of the petition doesn't even have to do with Youngkin. One paragraph, for instance, laments:

Preceding this announcement, GMU has neglected to meet the needs of students. From allowing homophobic, transphobic, racist, and/or anti-abortion groups to regularly occupy campus and harass passersby, to ignoring students and student organizations requesting assistance or support in their endeavors, GMU administration has taken pride in the diversity of the student body. At the same time, however, the administration has failed to protect and defend those same students from harm.

Commencement is a celebration, and it's not mandatory. Rather than just staying home, though, these students seem to be suggesting that they will cause a disruption and potentially ruin the ceremony for their fellow graduates, with it being quite chilling that they think such warnings would be acceptable. 

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The concise and cordial statement from Gov. Youngkin's spokeswoman Macaulay Porter could not stand in more stark contrast to the disruptive students. "Governor Youngkin looks forward to addressing the 2023 graduates of George Mason University and celebrating their tremendous accomplishment," she told Townhall. 

"Youngkin" was trending on Twitter throughout Wednesday, in part to the news about him indeed speaking at GMU's commencement in May, but also because of chatter he may run for president in 2024. On Wednesday, RealClearPolitics (RCP) featured a POLITICO column from John F. Harris, who wrote that "Why Glenn Youngkin Would Be Crazy Not to Run for President." Youngkin remains committed to doing the best job he can as governor of Virginia. 

When asked by press last August about potential plans for higher office, the governor emphasized his "top priority is to make Virginia the best state to live work and raise a family" and that "2024 is a long way off." Reiterating his focus being on the present, he also said that "I am focused on delivering on promises made last year that have been kept. We've got a giant agenda for the rest of this year and into next year. And 2024 will happen when 2024 gets here."

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