Phi Beta Cons

Wesleyan’s Tin Ear

Today, I discovered that my alma mater, Wesleyan University, is handing an honorary degree to someone very deserving:

 Our other honorary degree recipients at Commencement are also in the Wesleyan family: . . . Cecile Richards P’13, whose leadership of Planned Parenthood has helped to make the world safer and healthier.

Cecile Richards would be the woman who lovingly eulogizes Margaret Sanger’s struggles for birth control without so much as a peep about her inordinately creepy motives for doing so.

From the Wesleyan announcement: 

As president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Cecile Richards is a national leader in health care and social justice.

Since joining Planned Parenthood in 2006, she has ensured that it played a significant role in the development of health care coverage and services for women under the Affordable Care Act, led a highly effective campaign to preserve access to Planned Parenthood preventive care, doubled the number of individuals who support the organization to more than 6 million and introduced a youth initiatives program that trains young people to be effective leaders and advocates for health care.

Previously, she was deputy chief of staff for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. In 2004, she founded and served as president of America Votes, a coalition of 42 national grassroots organizations dedicated to improving voter participation nationwide.

In 2011, she was named to Time magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. She currently serves on the board of the Ford Foundation. Her husband is Kirk Adams ‘73 and their daughter, Hannah Adams, is a member of the class of 2013.

Given the massive number of scandals Planned Parenthood has been embroiled in, especially related to fundraising and its facilitation of illegal activities, the lionizing of someone who bears at least partial responsibility for allowing those scandals to occur by an institution of higher education is a disgrace, no matter your personal views on abortion. The fact that it is being done by a college that still bears John Wesley’s name, when the Methodist Church emphatically rejects most forms of abortion, is simply insulting to the school’s heritage, and to any alumni who still value Wesleyan for its original mission.

I have a compromise to suggest: Given that no less an eminence than the treasurer of the College Republican National Committee, Alex Levin, is graduating from Wesleyan this year, I would suggest that the administration offer Alex the position of student speaker at this year’s commencement if he is willing. The least the school can do to mitigate this self-imposed insult to its heritage is to ensure that equal time for all viewpoints can be given at its commencement when a qualified speaker is available.

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