Endorsement & Academic Freedom
Debates About Commencement Speakers & Student Groups Reveal a Double Standard
by John Garvey
This is the time of year when we begin to argue about commencement speakers. Every spring Catholic colleges attract attention for inviting (or disinviting) speakers whose messages are at odds with the teaching of the Catholic Church. This matter of honoring commencement speakers is a lot like another issue we wrestle with throughout the academic year—giving official recognition to student groups. Both issues touch on an institution's expression of its own identity. I'd like to offer some thoughts relevant to this year's inevitable round of debates.
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John Garvey is President of The Catholic University of America. In 2008 he was President of the Association of American Law Schools. He has practiced law with the firm of Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco, and taught at Notre Dame, Michigan, and Kentucky. He is the author or co-author of numerous books, including Religion and the Constitution (Aspen Publishers) and Sexuality and the U.S. Catholic Church (Crossroad).
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