Part of the way through his prayer at the Christian college, Freemyer, the Pastor of Missional Engagement at Broadway Baptist Church, said the following about the graduates:
And God, give them the moral imagination to reject the old keys that we’re trying to give them to a planet that we’re poisoning by running it on fossil fuels and misplaced priorities—a planet with too many straight white men like me behind the steering wheel, while others have been expected to sit quietly at the back of the bus. But God you are doing a new thing, praise be, you are doing a new thing through these graduates. It springs forth and we can feel it. You are making a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. You are forming these graduates and all of us for yourself so that we might declare your praise. Hallelujah, and amen.
In a statement Baylor’s president addressed the incident, explaining that the school did not review the benediction prayer in advance, nor did they intend for the benediction to contain political speech:
Like many of the attendees at one of the May 18, 2019, Commencement ceremonies, I was caught off-guard during the Benediction as this prayer is intended to focus on the graduates as they leave Baylor University and make a mark around the world, not to communicate any kind of political statement. The prayer was not scripted by anyone within the University, and I am disappointed that it has distracted from a special moment for our graduates and families attending Commencement.
Baylor typically allows a parent of one of the graduating students to offer the Benediction during Commencement, which is what occurred in this instance. We will review our internal procedures moving forward to ensure the Benediction is offered as intended at future Commencement ceremonies.
Up at New York University, doctoral graduate Steven William Thrasher infused his remarks with leftist ideology as well. While speaking at the doctoral graduation of NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science, Thrasher referred to President Donald Trump as “that fascist in the White House” and enthusiastically expressed his support for BDS.
And I am so proud, so proud, of NYU’s chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine, and Jewish Voices for Peace, and of GSOC and of the NYU student government, and of my colleagues in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis for supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against the apartheid state government in Israel—because this is what we are called to do, this is our NYU legacy—that we are connected in radical love, and we have a duty and a privilege in this position to protect not the most popular amongst us, but the most vulnerable amongst us, on every campus where we serve and every community where we live and every place that we work, this is our duty! And we must stand together to vanquish racism, and Islamaphobia, and anti-Semitism, and injustice, and attacks on women, and attacks on abortion rights, in Tel-Aviv, and Shanghai, and Abu Dhabi, New York City, Atlanta, Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco and everywhere in the world! Am I right?!”
NYU President Andrew Hamilton released a statement of disapproval in which he noted that Thrasher did not include the comments when he submitted the text of the speech beforehand:
I found it quite objectionable that the student speaker chose to make use of the Graduate School of Arts and Science doctoral graduation to express his personal viewpoints on BDS and related matters, language he excluded from the version of the speech he had submitted before the ceremony. We are sorry that the audience had to experience these inappropriate remarks. A graduation should be a shared, inclusive event; the speaker’s words – one-sided and tendentious – indefensibly made some in the audience feel unwelcome and excluded.
Let me use this occasion to reaffirm the University’s position – NYU rejects academic boycotts of Israel, rejects calls to close its Tel Aviv campus, and denounces efforts to ostracize or exclude those in the University community based on their location in Israel, their Israeli origin, or their political feelings for Israel.
As Newsweek pointed out, the university’s “Department of Social and Cultural analysis voted to end its relationship with the Tel Aviv campus.”
However, NYU spokesman John Beckman denounced that move in a statement, explaining that NYU does not even use any faculty from that department at its Tel Aviv campus, so the vote will not have any tangible impact:
We deplore this uncollegial and pointless effort to stigmatize the Tel Aviv program, as well as the students and faculty who study there. The University’s position on the issue of academic boycotts of Israel is clear: as we have noted on many occasions, they are at odds with the tenets of academic freedom and exchange, as the AAUP also notes. With respect to this departmental action: Our Tel Aviv campus does not draw on faculty from the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis for its academic program, so there does not seem to be a practical effect to the vote. Furthermore, NYU has not had a student denied entry to Israel to study at our Tel Aviv campus.”