As the news spread that President Steven B. Sample would be the 2010 commencement speaker, some seniors grumbled they weren’t getting an outside speaker as past classes have. But now, other seniors are banding together in support of Sample.
“I don’t understand why everyone is so upset,” said Brian Tenenbaum, a senior majoring in international relations.
In reaction to the Facebook group “Class of 2010 — Let’s get a Real Commencement Speaker,” started by Will Sohigian, a senior majoring in sociology and Spanish, Tenenbaum began the “I am Proud Steven Sample is my Commencement Speaker” Facebook group.
Tenenbaum said he can see the reason for students’ frustration but does not think it is warranted.
“Students [probably] got used to big names coming to campus,” he said.
Tenenbaum said he’s heard Sample speak before and was confident the university made a smart decision.
“He used to do a lot of orientation speeches, so he was one of the first speakers I saw when coming here. To have him as the last one would be great,” he said.
Sohigian said he created the group against having Sample as a speaker because he feels the class deserves a commencement speaker from outside the university.
“We’ve been having [President Sample] speak for several years now,” he said. “We’re only going to be graduating one time.”
Other seniors echoed this sentiment.
“I feel sort of cheated because he speaks at every commencement,” said Brian Hunt, a senior majoring in communication. “It’s usually someone fun and entertaining but nevertheless someone with an interesting perspective and someone who can relay that in a speech.”
Senior Vice President of University Relations Martha Harris said Sample was chosen because of the significance of this time in USC’s history.
“Typically, the president seeks ideas about the commencement speaker at the beginning of the year,” Harris said. “But the cabinet felt this year was a really historic moment at the university.”
Harris said she could understand students’ feelings but thought the sentiment of those against Sample was a little misguided.
“This is a kind of thing students will appreciate later as alumni, when they see the giant leap [the university] took,” Harris said.
Many faculty members agree and say they think Sample is as good a choice as previous USC speakers like California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger or notable journalist Ted Koppel.
“It’s a great choice. It’s his last commencement,” said Michael B. Preston, professor of political science. “Presiding over the ceremony is different than speaking.”
Though some have strong opinions, Hunt noted that he thinks the majority is ambivalent toward the graduation speaker and is just looking forward to the general event.
“The speech will speak for itself,” Hunt said. “Most don’t care who it is.”