ANN ARBOR, MI – Last week, the Bicentennial Commencement Committee debated replacing both the keynote and student commencement speakers for the Winter 2017 Commencement with a video montage of speeches from past years.
Since that time, the Commencement Committee has revised the plan, and they are now considering featuring ten “celebrity speakers” who would talk for about five minutes each. Instead of a student speaker, they plan to create a video montage of multiple students addressing the graduating class of 2017.
Engineering student Clare Hyde heard about the plan from committee members and started a survey in order to gauge student opinion concerning the matter. The survey allowed students to write personal statements regarding their feelings about the possibility of replacing the commencement speaker with a video montage. Hyde accumulated more than 1000 responses, an overwhelming majority of which expressed disapproval of the proposed change.
When asked, “Is your opinion of this type of keynote speech negative or positive?” 97.6% of respondents marked “Negative,” and 97.9% of the respondents agreed that their graduation would not be sufficiently commemorated with a video montage in place of a live speaker. 64.5% of respondents would not even attend the commencement at the Big House if there were no live speakers. When asked about who they would want to address them at commencement, students mentioned the Obamas, Ellen DeGeneres, Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Malala Yousafzai, and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Although the new plan does include celebrity speakers, they are still considering replacing the single student speaker with a video-montage featuring sound bites from a number of students. According to Hyde’s survey results, 85.2% of students feel that neither the student nor the celebrity speaker should be replaced with a video.
Many students expressed disapproval of eliminating the student speaker, one student noting, “By also cutting the student speaker, you would be telling our class that you do not care about our achievements and you would rather remember past speakers over allowing one of us to have our chance to speak to our peers.”
Another stressed the importance of speakers who are physically present, “I believe that the beauty of a commencement speech is the human interaction between the crowd and the individual speaker. Let us not forget the importance of human interaction!”
A third student said, “I would not mind the video as long as it did not replaced a real human. It could be a great addition, but definitely not a replacement.”
The Committee’s assurance that the commencement address will feature “celebrity speakers” comes after widespread distribution of Hyde’s survey and backlash by Michigan students on social media in response to rumors that the inclusion of keynote speaker was up for debate.