The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

The student news site of El Camino College

El Camino College The Union

Commencement is about the students, not El Camino

El Camino College Class of 2019 attends the 72nd Commencement Ceremony at the Murdock Stadium on Friday, June 7, 2019. (Elena Perez | The Union)

El Camino College has canceled its student speaker for this year’s commencement ceremony, silencing the voice of students and restricting free speech yet again. 

This is another action from the college attempting to censor student voices. Just a month earlier, the college restricted students’ ability to post on their club’s social media, violating the First Amendment right to free speech. 

Canceling a student speaker and taking away the opportunity for students to address their campus community defeats the entire purpose of a commencement ceremony.

Commencement should be student-centered, not college-centered. The college’s role is to support students, applaud their success, and allow them to share their stories and achievements, not to censor them. 

If commencement is supposed to honor and celebrate students, why isn’t a student speaker taking the stage?

In a May 14 email to the campus community, the college said it noticed students tend to leave commencement early and hopes that removing students and keynote speakers will reduce the length of the ceremony and encourage more students to stay. 

The college also said in the email that selected excerpts of speeches will be printed in the commencement program, and the rest will be available online.

Yet, the college’s decision to remove a student speaker after maintaining the tradition for the past 10 years raises questions about the motives behind the decision, especially considering the events of last year’s commencement ceremony and current protests on college campuses regarding Israel and Palestine.

During last year’s commencement ceremony, former ASO president Jana Abulaban unexpectedly made a statement supporting Palestine and accusing Israel of killing and torturing Palestinians. 

This causes us to wonder if El Camino removed this year’s student speaker for another reason, in addition to reducing the duration of the ceremony.

It seems the college fears another unexpected remark, outside of the script. Perhaps the college is afraid to let its students speak, for fear of tarnishing its reputation. 

The college said in its email that ASO President Jose Merino and student trustee Connor Lai will give “celebratory remarks.” Apparently, only student government representatives should be allowed to speak at commencement—it must be what the college considers “safe.”

Regardless of the college’s fears, the answer is not to remove student voices. 

Fifteen people applied to be student speakers this year. That’s 15 voices—fifteen stories being silenced and censored.

Other colleges recognize the importance of having a student speaker. Santa Monica College and Los Angeles Pierce College will have one this year. Cerritos College and Orange Coast College already hosted their ceremonies this month, both with student speakers.

When considering the three-hour-long commencement ceremony, it is understandable why the college would want to cut some time. 

Yet, the college already eliminated this year’s keynote speaker, who took 20 minutes during last year’s ceremony. Why should they cut a student’s speech, too, which only takes around 10 minutes? 

The president can speak for 10 minutes but a student can’t. 

Well done, El Camino. Very student-centered.

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