The management of Wichita State University (WSU) and affiliate WSU Tech has canceled the speaking engagement of Ivanka Trump to graduating students of both institutions in Kansas. The university authorities took the decision in response to the nationwide condemnation of President Donald Trump’s insensitivity to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the poor handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Both WSU and WSU Tech had announced on Thursday, June 4 that the president’s daughter would be speaking at their June 6 virtual commencement, but they canceled the engagement and revoked the announcement a few hours later on the same day after associate professor Jennifer Ray posted a letter against the speaking engagement. The letter circulated on social media and 488 faculty, students, and alumni signed the letter, prompting the authorities to reconsider.
“Ivanka Trump, obviously, represents her father’s administration as one of his closest advisors,” Ray’s letter reads. “Too 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.”
WSU Tech President Sheree Utash responded after the massive signature of the letter, “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. For this, I’m sorry that was never the intent.” She announced that the ceremony would be “refocused” on students and stated that WSU Tech practical nursing graduate Rebecca Zinadu would speak instead.
Ivanka Trump who was obviously miffed with the development decried “cancel culture and viewpoint discrimination” in a tweet, saying the universities should have listened to her.
“Our nation’s campuses should be bastions of free speech. Cancel culture and viewpoint discrimination are antithetical to academia. Listening to one another is important now more than ever!” she wrote on Twitter.
It seemed however that Trump had initially chosen to speak to the students through a recorded message which would have been played at the ceremony. Following the cancelation of her engagement, she still went ahead to release a near 10 minutes pre-recorded speech on Twitter and spoke about the difficulties posed by the coronavirus pandemic and the challenges of graduating during the worldwide problem. She told the graduates in the speech, “You are a wartime graduate”.
But she said nothing about the Minneapolis police killing of African-American George Floyd. A White House spokesman said she had recorded a message nearly two weeks ago before the death of Floyd.