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Letter to the editor: Commencement is just the place for protest

nited States Senator, Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, speaks with reporters following the weekly United States Senate Republican policy luncheons on Capitol Hill on November 14, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

To the editor:

There has been controversy over the possibility of some graduates walking out on Autumn Commencement speaker Sen. Rob Portman on Sunday. Some have said that while they respect the right to protest, commencement is not the right place for it.

These students are dismayed that their hard work will not be properly validated if some students walk out on the commencement speaker. They don’t want their experience to be disturbed by a protest. Others have simply said they are embarrassed to go to school with people who would do such a thing. The very nature of a protest, however, is to be disruptive.

While I have learned countless things during my time at Ohio State, quite possibly the most important value I have learned is that you cannot be complacent. Standing up for what you believe in and exercising your rights is key to a functioning liberal democracy. Portman has been unresponsive and unaccountable for his constituents, as displayed by his refusal to hold a town hall meeting during the congressional recess. With several important pieces of legislation in Congress this year, town halls and other public appearances are necessary in understanding how the people directly affected feel about them.

As a lifetime Ohio resident, I am not satisfied with the level of service he has provided me and other Ohioans. Having the senator speak at our commencement without the possibility of dialogue offers no benefit to me and others concerned with the current state of affairs.

By protesting the senator’s speech in a silent and peaceful way, we do not mean to disrespect the other graduates. I, like everyone else, have worked hard for more than four years to get to finally achieve my lifelong dream of graduating from Ohio State. I understand people want to have the best commencement they can, but politics do not stop for a ceremony.

As students, we have a special platform to voice our opinions, and for many, commencement will be their last time on this stage, so let’s use it. If you feel a similar way, join me and others by walking out when Portman is announced on Sunday.

Ryan Van Curen

Fifth-year in criminology



  1. Your protest will only show disrespect towards your fellow graduates. It is their day as much as it is yours, you have no right to take that away from them by causing a disturbance during the ceremony. If you want to protest, stay away, but to walk out during the ceremony at the price of your fellow graduates is nothing but acting like a spoiled 3 year old who’s not getting their way.

    • Funny how someone who disagrees with you is a spoiled brat. That’s a snap judgement. Do you understand why they’re protesting? Did you actually read Mr. Van Curen’s letter?

      • Very simple, a spoiled brat is only concerned about what they want, about their own feelings. They don’t care about the fact that they would ruin 1000s of others day and achievements because they gotta kick and scream to make their point at the expense of everyone else.

  2. So you are going to walk out when the speaker begins and then assume they are going to let you back in for your diploma?

    “Standing up for what you believe in and exercising your rights is key to a functioning liberal democracy.” A true Democracy is neither liberal nor conservative. In a Democracy different ideas are exchanged and then decisions are made. I guess in your “liberal democracy” only ideas you want to hear should be expressed.

    I suggest you stay and listen. You might hear something new and learn, which was why you went to college, correct?

    • I don’t think you understand what the term liberal democracy means. It doesn’t refer to liberal or conservative political beliefs, it’s the principle upon which Western democracy is founded upon.

    • Have you thought that maybe the protesters have sat and listened on many occasions and have built their principles based on what they’ve learned? Did you actually read Mr. Van Curen’s letter to the editor? Maybe you should listen to what the protesters have to say–maybe you’ll learn something.

  3. Mr. Van Curen, you are a young man of string principles. I don’t understand how the protest is going to mar someone else’s experience. If other people want to enjoy their day in the sun, or sit idly by while the Tea Party (a major Portman financial backer) continues to eat away at our basic human rights, that’s their business.

    I stand with you.

  4. Have fun making a fool of yourself.

  5. This is NOT the venue for protest, regardless of speaker. I didn’t like President Obama one bit. However, I would have sat and listened and gave his office, not him, its due respect. I would have been honored to have a sitting US President make remarks, even if I did not agree. Protesting makes a negative spectacle of yourself, group, and university and leaves a sour taste in the mouths of your fellow classmates and guests.

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