UNC students fight school's decision to have Mayor Bloomberg as commencement speaker
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CHAPEL HILL -- Students at UNC Chapel Hill are trying to convince the university to change speakers for this spring's commencement. They've started an online petition protesting New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the commencement speaker.
Kari Dahlgren and her friends counted the number of online signatures they've collected so far. As a UNC senior, she was looking forward to her graduation this spring until she found out Bloomberg would be the speaker.
"Being involved with Occupy, I didn't feel like I could ethically attend my commencement ceremony and feel good about being there,” said Dahlgren.
She set up an online petition through www.change.org. Dahlgren and many of her fellow students are involved with the Occupy movement and disagree with how Bloomberg handled shutting down the Occupy Wall Street camp in Zuccotti Park.
"He's come to represent the anti Occupy. For a movement that has no enemies, he's taken the step to become the enemy by shutting down the park,” Dahlgren said.
"We don't want Mayor Bloomberg to be the person that sees us off into the world after we end our four year experience here,” said Laurel Ashton, another UNC senior.
After students have collected signatures, they will then send the petition to Chancellor Holden Thorp and the University Commencement Committee. But, not every Tar Heel we spoke with is on board and many students we spoke with said they wouldn't sign the petition.
"Michael Bloomberg is a big name. We need big name commencement speakers. I think he did what he felt he had to do to prevent any major negative impact from the Occupy Wall Street people,” said Kristian Doty, a UNC student who says he won't sign the petition.
Dahlgren says she understands university officials probably won't revoke Bloomberg's invitation so she and other students are also planning an alternate graduation ceremony.
What do her parents say about her not walking with the rest of the class of 2012?
“I had to break it to them, carefully. But, once I explained the reasoning behind it, they understood,” Dahlgren said.
The petition has been up for a little more than a week. The students say they are continuing to promote it as they plan the alternate commencement ceremony. So far, university officials have not indicated they will change speakers. Graduation is scheduled for May 13.