I hate to beat a dead horse with its own leg, but I think I need to. Clearly, the good students of Portland State have captured the attention of the local media because we don’t want Katie Harman to be our commencement speaker. However, they are not listening to our protests.
In one moronic opinion piece, an Oregonian writer said that she thinks Katie will do a great job if she talks about something funny. She gives Katie friendly advice to deal with a hostile or disinterested audience. She also chides us mean old PSU students for hating her for being pretty. Obviously, this writer never read any of the articles or columns that appeared in the Vanguard.
First of all, we don’t hate Katie Harman. Most of us don’t know her. And as for them saying we dislike her because she’s pretty? It’s just insulting to PSU students. Most of us are grown up enough not to hate people because they are pretty or look different than us.
On one radio talk show, the hosts lectured me that Katie Harman was busy taking dance lessons and getting voice training, while the rest of us slackers were “going on dates.” This is an unfair, unresearched and totally inaccurate assessment of PSU students. I corrected the hosts, reminding them that the average age of the PSU student is 26-28, and that many students juggle full-time jobs, full-time course loads and families. We are hardly going on dates and screwing around while Katie H. is at voice lessons. She is lucky she had the time, money and opportunity to take time off to do what she has done. We should get a single-parent student to deliver the commencement speech.
On a personal level, media people have asked me if I think that she is an inappropriate speaker because she is Miss America, an institution that is frequently criticized for being a sexist holdover from the 1950s. If any of these people bother to read my initial article on the subject of Katie and speaking, they will find that I don’t care about the pageant. The beautiful thing about being a woman these days is that we can choose to do pageants or not, like we can choose to get married or not. I think Ms. Harman did a fantastic job of challenging some of the ideals of the Miss America Pageant. She wore pants during the interview section!
While some PSU students do have a problem (and a valid concern it is) with the whole Miss America pageant thing, I do not. I’m from the “if you don’t like it, turn it off” school.
What is perhaps the most frustrating thing for us is the way in which she was chosen. To me, it represents astonishing laziness on the part of the administration. It sends me the message that they don’t care as much about my commencement as I do. So far their reaction to our criticism has ranged from indifferent to hostile.
Students, particularly the graduating ones, should have a say in who is chosen. Whether it is by popular vote or a committee of concerned individuals, we should definitely be given more power in speaker selection. Lew Church has come up with a solution, but it isn’t a satisfactory one for me. He’s made good suggestions of people to come speak, but some of them are a little too politically charged. Let us leave discussion of Sept. 11 for other, more appropriate times.
I would really like those who chose Katie Harman to sit down and face us. It is easy for them to sit in their offices and issue terse statements about how great their decisions are and what big babies we are for even thinking to criticize their “brilliant” decision. I think looking into our faces would cause them the discomfort they so richly deserve.
I’d also like them to draft a letter of apology for all the angry relatives out there. I have had to answer for the administration’s arrogance so many times it’s not funny anymore. My family is bewildered and stupefied. My grandfather is threatening not to come. One of my aunts brings the whole dirty situation up repeatedly. I’m willing to bet I’m not the only graduate who is facing this.
My message to the administration is: You suck. My message to the Portland media is: Do your research. I know you think it’s better to tell Portland at large that college kids are spoiled brats who bite the hands that feed them than do some research and tell the real story. Of course, I don’t know why I’m bothering to include these messages, because neither party will really pay attention.