“Our nation’s campuses should be bastions of free speech,” tweeted President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser on Friday, alongside a video of the address she’d pre-recorded for the ceremony.
“Cancel culture and viewpoint discrimination are antithetical to academia,” she added. “Listening to one another is important now more than ever.”
Many noted her reported involvement when federal authorities on Monday used tear gas to clear peaceful protesters from near the White House so that the president could pose with a Bible in front of St. John’s Church. The stunt has been widely condemned.
WSU Tech drew backlash from students and faculty members on Thursday after announcing it would broadcast a pre-recorded message from Ivanka Trump during its commencement, being held online amid the coronavirus pandemic.
An open letter condemning her involvement in the ceremony garnered almost 500 signatures. “Ivanka Trump, obviously, represents her father’s administration as one of his closest advisors,” it read. “To many Americans, that administration has come to signify the worst of our country, particularly in its recent actions toward those peacefully protesting against racist police brutality.”
Wichita State University and WSU Tech jointly announced late Thursday that the WSU Tech commencement plans had been “refocused more centrally on students.” Instead, a “practical nursing graduate, will now be the only commencement speaker during the ceremony.”
Dr. Sheree Utash, the president of WSU Tech, explained in a separate statement how the invitation to Ivanka Trump had been “extended in February” to “record a congratulatory message to graduates to be played during our event.”
“In light of the social justice issues brought forth by George Floyd’s death, I understand and take responsibility that the timing of the announcement was insensitive,” said Utash. “For this, I’m sorry that was never the intent, and I want you to know I have heard you and we are responding.”
“Our graduates will also be invited to separately view congratulatory messages from over 30 voices, including Ms. Trump and community members,” Utash added.