Hundreds of students and faculty stormed the administrative offices at UMass Amherst today. They were protesting the honorary degree that will be given to former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card. "We have shut down Whitmore, we've shut it down."
With the UMass Chancellor's office now vacant, the students and faculty protesting Andrew Card's honorary degree decided to take their message to the Dean of the Graduate School. Card, a native of Massachusetts, served as White House Chief of Staff under President George W. Bush, and previously served as a Massachusetts State Rep. Protesters say his involvement in the invasion in Iraq makes him an inappropriate degree candidate.
"We will not have this man at our commencement," yells a protester.
"Every major representative group at the university has declined this petition," says Graduate Student Manuel Matos.
"I find it really insulting that they're giving somebody who has very little ethics, if any ethics at all, this honorary degree," says Grad Student Dickie Wallace.
Once at the door of Graduate Dean John Mullin they found another vacant office. Police were called to disperse the crowd, which they did without incident, before marching back to the Chancellor's door. The Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs followed the crowd and made a statement on behalf of the University Administration.
"The decision made by the President and the Board of Trustees remains the same," says Vice Chancellor Michael Gargano.
A decision protesters say leaves them no choice but to demonstrate at the ceremony, despite the consequence for graduates.
"It does a disservice to the people that are graduating to have not just a controversial issue, but a steadfast refusal to listen," says Matos.
Wallace agrees, "I want a nice ceremony, I don't want a big protest and I don't want all of this nonsense screwing up my graduation."
Card is scheduled to receive the honorary degree at the graduate student commencement on May 25. A university spokesman says an emergency board meeting could be called between now and then to rescind the invitation, but the university has no plans to do so.
Andrew "Andy" Card, the former Chief of Staff of the Bush Administration, is getting an honorary degree from UMass, and our campus is up-in-arms. His speech in April angered students, and now the University is growing louder in protest. These protests have taken the form of 'Die-ins', as well as organized meetings. Now, as the time of graduation rapidly approaches along with Card's official acceptance, disgruntled resistance has reached a crescendo.
For those who are unfamiliar with Card's career and accomplishments, he started as a corruption-fighting Massachusetts State Representative, making an unsuccessful run for governor in 1982. Afterward, he worked in both the Reagan and Bush administrations and as a lobbyist in the automobile industry. Most recently, Mr. Card found himself appointed Chief of Staff for current president, George W. Bush, in 2001. Though he resigned last year, it is due to this position in the White House that such controversy emerged on our campus.
Dissidents to his honorary degree depict Card as a talking head of the Iraq War. Being in charge of the White House Iraq Group, he played an important role in lobbying the necessity of war to the American people. Going on the UMass-Amherst website, one can see the criterion for the selection process includes a statement that candidates "shall be persons of great accomplishment and high ethical standards who exemplify the ideals of the University of Massachusetts." Protesters argue that an honorary degree winner represents the University, and with it the student body - by giving Card a degree, we affirm and support the war in Iraq by association.
...The recent 'die-ins', meetings and writings are all indicative of a student body that, if not indifferent, has a distinct distaste for our country's operation overseas and all who represent it. But despite this notable amount of objection, calls for rescinding are not being heard by our school administration.
At a recent Faculty Senate meeting, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Stephen P. Tocco refused to allow a review for the Card decision. In a room cluttered with both students and teachers, along with clapping approval at the suggestion for a meeting on the subject, the higher-ups would have nothing of it.
Quite simply, the Andy Card situation proves this democratic institution to be not so democratic after all. Despite these prevalent protests and formal requests to reconsider the nomination, no progress has been made. As a result, the situation has come to a head. The administration will not stand down, and neither will those opposed, a group comprised of not only students, but faculty as well. Now things are getting ugly as protests at graduation commencement have been planned...
Last fall, outgoing Governor Mitt Romney stacked the UMass board with new trustees, guaranteeing the selection of a new chairman, Stephen P. Tocco, a pharmacist turned lobbyist and Romney ally.
Blame it on his cheatin' heart. It's divorce: Mitt Romney v. the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
The former Massachusetts governor paints a picture of irreconcilable differences, but that's not the whole story.
Some guys break up via e-mail. Romney chose a television ad as the way to cut ties with the state he two-timed with a hotter date -- a White House run.
The ad's narrator darkly observes: "In the most liberal state in the country, one Republican stood up and cut spending, instead of raising taxes. He enforced immigration laws, stood up for traditional marriage and the sanctity of life." The candidate says: "This isn't the time for us to shrink from conservative principles."
No matter what the ad states, Romney has a problem. There was a time when he did shrink from conservative principles -- it was when he was running for governor of Massachusetts. Once he started two-timing Massachusetts and running for president, he talked the conservative talk. But, back home, he didn't always walk the conservative walk.
For example, he went from protector of Roe v. Wade as a gubernatorial candidate to abortion opponent on the presidential campaign trail .
And, instead of raising taxes, Romney raised $700 million by increasing fees and closing corporate loopholes -- a practice corporations consider a tax increase.
When it comes to another claim in the ad -- enforcing immigration laws -- the Globe last year reported that the Massachusetts State Police relied on a company to clean its barracks and headquarters that employed scores of undocumented immigrants. During the Romney years, additional state contracts were going out to other companies employing illegal immigrants. Besides, Romney never questioned the citizenship of landscapers who tended his own front lawn. Instead, he yelled out a friendly "buenos dias" to crews that included illegal immigrants.
In the campaign ad, Romney flashes photos of Senator John F. Kerry and former governor Michael S. Dukakis, superimposed over a headline that mentions "Ted Kennedy"-- all reminders of the liberals who conservatives love to hate. Yet a year ago, Romney posed with Kennedy and a panoply of Democratic politicians in historic Faneuil Hall to celebrate a new law that not only guarantees healthcare for the uninsured -- it mandates it; imposes penalties on individuals who refuse to comply; and requires the state and business to pay for a portion of the coverage. That's conservative?
The good news for Romney? The test for his presidential quest isn't going to be whether he is conservative enough.
The bad news? The test is whether he is trustworthy enough. How much trust can Republican primary voters reasonably invest in a politician who changed so many positions? How good is Romney's word today?
During the GOP primary season, liberals like Kennedy are naturally cast as demons. If Romney becomes his party's nominee, how long before that picture of Romney and Kennedy in Faneuil Hall becomes a centerpiece of his campaign? What if he goes back to being the fiscally conservative social moderate many Massachusetts voters believed they were electing?
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senator John McCain of Arizona, and Romney all face challenges when it comes to pleasing their party's conservative base. Some quality beyond sheer ideology is going to tip the balance in one candidate's favor.
Romney has money, organization, a strong resume, and presidential looks. But he also has Massachusetts. He can run against its liberal politics, but he can't run against its memory. Voters here remember what he said to win and what he did once elected.
The Romney team probably believes there is nothing to lose by running against the Bay State; the former governor can't win the state in a general election. If their conclusion is accurate, it isn't strictly because Romney is Republican. Ronald Reagan won Massachusetts when he ran for president. The threat Massachusetts poses to Romney is not the loss of its 12 electoral college votes on ideological grounds. It's the Bay State's ability to challenge Romney where it really hurts, on matters of truthfulness and character. To this day, it's hard to tell what he really believes on abortion or immigration or healthcare.
Massachusetts was Romney's springboard. It could also be his trip wire. Friendly divorces are rare indeed.
The truth is that the nightmare of the Bush years won’t really be over until politicians are convinced that voters will punish, not reward, Bush-style fear-mongering. And that hasn’t happened yet.
Here’s the way it ought to be: When Rudy Giuliani says that Iran, which had nothing to do with 9/11, is part of a “movement” that “has already displayed more aggressive tendencies by coming here and killing us,” he should be treated as a lunatic.
When Mitt Romney says that a coalition of “Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda” wants to “bring down the West,” he should be ridiculed for his ignorance.
And when John McCain says that Osama, who isn’t in Iraq, will “follow us home” if we leave, he should be laughed at.
But they aren’t, at least not yet. And until belligerent, uninformed posturing starts being treated with the contempt it deserves, men who know nothing of the cost of war will keep sending other people’s children to graves at Arlington.
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