Amid some student backlash, the president of Virginia’s George Mason University is standing behind the decision to invite Gov. Glenn Youngkin to speak at commencement.
“As president of the largest and most diverse public university in our state, I support those students who are making their voices heard,” a statement from Dr. Gregory Washington, university president, reads. “And I applaud their courage and commitment to advocate for themselves and their communities.
“That being said, I don’t believe that we should silence the voices of those with whom we disagree, especially in this forum where there is no imminent threat present as a result of the disagreements.”
The university announced Youngkin’s invitation last Thursday. Shortly after, university senior Alaina Ruffin started circulating an online petition to have Youngkin’s invitation rescinded, Fox News reports.
In comments posted with the online petition, Ruffin said she opposed Youngkin’s presence because she did not want the ceremony “tainted,” claiming the governor, “has harmed and continues to harm the people he serves.”
She also criticized Youngkin for “passing anti-trans legislation,” and advocating for the “abolishment of racial equity curricula.”
As of Wednesday morning, the petition had reportedly received over 6,800 signatures, 700 shy of the stated goal.
Washington encouraged the students protesting Youngkin’s appearance to participate and share their views instead. He called the university a place for open discussion and debate while stressing the importance of discourse in the educational process.
“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,” his statement continued.