NMU invitation to Governor Snyder creates backlash

Nov 14, 2017

MARQUETTE, MI--   Northern Michigan University has invited Governor Rick Snyder to give May’s commencement address, and some aren’t happy about it. 

Marcus Robyns

A student petition against the visit is circulating campus, and an opposition group comprising university employees and the public wants the invitation rescinded.

NMU Archivist Marcus Robyns is coordinator of the group. He says Snyder’s involvement in the Flint water crisis makes him a bad choice. Robyns says the group won’t try to stop the governor from speaking, but they believe commencement isn’t the place for such a controversial figure.

“Commencement speakers should reflect, at least on some level, the best values or our core values at Northern, and it should be a celebration of student achievement,” he says. “And Snyder’s invitation doesn’t do this.”           

NMU President Fritz Erickson says he respects those who don’t agree with the decision, but he says the selection is important because it reflects the university’s welcoming stance to various opinions and ideas. 

“It is more than just free speech. It is really the commitment of the university to consider multiple perspectives, and that we don’t hold a litmus test to people that come to our campus and present,” he says.

Erickson says discussion of the matter will continue.

“We don’t back away from controversies,” he says. “If higher education backed away from controversy, who would we really be?”