HUNTER COMMENCEMENT DEGRADED BY THE INCLUSION OF INVITED SPEAKER CHRIS MATTHEWS
June 1, 2008
Dear Hunter College Community,
As you may know, MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews has been invited to speak at Hunter’s graduation day ceremony on Wednesday, June 4th. Administrative staff at Hunter looked for a speaker who could address political issues in this election year and decided to invite MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann. After agreeing to speak, Olbermann then backed out of his commitment and instead of returning to the drawing board, a Hunter staff member called MSNBC to see who they could send in Olbermann’s place. Matthews was offered and accepted. There was no formal vetting or real consideration given to the selection of this particular graduation speaker.
Mr. Matthews has gained notoriety throughout the country for years of insensitive, sexist comments on his show “Hardball” and his insulting treatment of women—not only, most visibly, Senator Clinton but also his television colleagues who happen to be female. Matthews referred to Clinton as a “she devil,” called her a “strip-teaser” and “witchy.” He has referred to men who support her as “castratos in the eunuch chorus.” He has commented on the physical appearance of women including his CNBC colleague Erin Burnett, calling her “beautiful” and “a knockout” during a discussion of economic news. In an interview with John and Elizabeth Edwards, Matthews asked the former Senator, “Does she bite your balls like this when you go home?” He then went on to ask, “What is this with the equal marriages? Why do people marry their equals? It used to be different. What happened to the Stepford wives? The good old days?” These are but a small sample of Matthews’s on-air sexist comments.
It is, in our view, disgraceful for Hunter College, for all of us who love this institution and most of all for our present and future students who look to Hunter as a bastion of women’s empowerment, to confer this honor on someone whose words in public so contradict the most basic feminist and civic values. Inviting him to be our speaker is asking him to represent Hunter College on this important occasion, and this should never have happened. We are outraged.
We urge President Jennifer Raab to adopt a process in the future that would prevent such mistakes. We hope you’ll join us in this call to improve the process by which the college selects commencement speakers. Write to President Raab to encourage her to establish a more careful, transparent, and democratic process. Her email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students, Adjunct Faculty, Policy Committee of the
Women and Gender Studies Program