Well, Michigan Law Dean Evan Caminker got what he wanted: Ohio Senator Rob Portman addressed gradating 3Ls, at senior day. But conscientious members of the Michigan Law community didn’t have to stomach it if they didn’t want to. There was a walk-out during Portman’s speech, and some reports claim that over 100 students (out of 400) joined in.
Michigan students who support civil rights and marriage equality should feel proud. They’ve brought national attention to this issue. And they did so without “ruining” graduation for anybody else. There’s video of the walk-out up on Perez Hilton, and it doesn’t appear that the protesting Michigan students were unduly disruptive to those who wanted to hear Portman speak.
While it is sad to see the class split like this, perhaps the Michigan administration will invite a less divisive speaker next year. Given the position Michigan Law put its LGBT community in, I’m not sure how this could have turned out much better…
Here’s some fun video of the protest on Perez Hilton:
You might have recognized the name Andrew Selbst. He was one of the people featured in the video, and he’s been blogging about the situation at Michigan. Selbst is the brother of Vanessa Selbst, the openly gay champion poker player whom we’ve written about before. (By way of full disclosure, I’ve been out drinking with Andrew and I think he’s a good guy.)
Andrew Selbst is straight, and some Michigan students have emailed us to complain that a straight person took a leading role in this protest (and to question Selbst’s claim of over 100 walkout participants). I don’t see the problem with a straight guy in a leadership role. I’m reminded of when some in the black community became annoyed with Jews playing a prominent role in the civil rights movement, and how that ended up being a really dumb thing to have a problem with.
In any event, the Portman fiasco is now behind Michigan, and the question becomes: What will Michigan do going forward? Dean Caminker has indicated that this experience will cause the school to reexamine how it chooses speakers, but it’s anybody’s guess what the new process will look like. And you get the feeling that there will be students next year just waiting to pick a fight with any potential graduation speaker next year. Trying to find a speaker that everybody can rally behind for next year is going to be tough. I wonder if Michigan should be trying to lock down Snooki right now.
Despite those difficulties, it should not be hard for Michigan to find somebody who believes in the fundamental equality of all Michigan Law students. It should not be difficult for Michigan to find somebody who is against denying a significant portion of the Michigan Law community basic civil rights.
As I’ve said from the very begining, Michigan should start by finding somebody who does not represent Ohio. I mean, let’s keep the prejudices in order, folks. A true Michigan man would rather see two Michigan dudes married ten times over than break bread with a Buckeye.
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Michigan Law