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With growing student opposition, COGS takes stance against George Will commencement appearance

December 7, 2014

The Council of Graduate Students held a special full council meeting Sunday night, in order to pass a resolution condemning Washington Post columnist George Will's appearance as a commencement speaker at Saturday's graduation ceremony.

"We, the Executive Board and the Full Council of the Council of Graduate Students, want to convey our objections to Dr. George Will serving as one of the commencement speakers and being a recipient of an honorary degree this semester," the resolution said.

COGS is the first campus organization to formally oppose Will's appearance at graduation, as student opposition has grown more vocal since Will was announced as a speaker on Dec. 2. 

A protest scheduled for the day of commencement on Facebook has almost 600 individuals attending. There also is a petition on urging MSU to drop Will as a speaker and find a replacement, although it does not say how many have signed. 

The council took the stance that, while Will has had a "long career as a respected journalist and political writer," his June 6 column criticizing the stance universities' attempt to confront sexual assault "proved to be less than palatable."

The resolution stated that Will's stance on this issue directly conflicts with MSU's efforts to combat sexual assault, and urged MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon and the MSU administration to "rescind their invitation to honor Dr. Will as a commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary degree" and also offered to "mobilize the resources of the Council of Graduate Students to assist the university in locating a replacement."

Drafted primarily by Human Development and Family Studies representative Sudha Sankar before the meeting itself, an amendment was added by School of Criminal Justice representative Robert Vankirk to "request that the University dedicate resources equivalent to the honorarium offered to Dr. Will towards hiring additional sexual assault counselors to enhance support for survivors of sexual assault on campus," related to ASMSU's similar campaign to raise funds for the MSU Counseling Center.

ASMSU President James Conwell said that ASMSU has no plans to take a position on George Will. 

"Unfortunately, due to the timing of the announcement of the speakers, ASMSU was actually unable to bring a bill to fruition as representatives were not able to debate and discuss with their constituents their opinion on the matter and accurately reflect the opinion of the undergraduate student body," Conwell said.

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