Expecting to address the more than 2,000 students
graduating from Manhattan Borough Community College today, Winston Chow started
writing his speech on the value of student activism.
But two days ago Chow, the Student Government president, was told he
wouldn't be allowed to speak at the commencement exercises at Madison Square
Chow, 26, an honors student with a 3.6 grade point average, will transfer
to Columbia University or Vassar College in the fall. Because of the transfer,
college officials told him Wednesday that he could not speak because he is not
a member of the graduating class.
Chow, other Student Government officials and their faculty advisers
But in another twist yesterday afternoon, Chow learned that administrators
Administrators, responding to pressure from student leaders and elected
officials, agreed to allow Chow to speak for three minutes.
the council's higher education committee.
College officials could not be reached to confirm the latest decision.
Chow and his supporters believed that Antonio Perez, the college's
president, was getting back at Chow in originally denying him permission to
speak at graduation because Chow is a strong advocate for students' rights.
"Usually when I make a speech they're not too appreciative of the things I
have to say," Chow said.
"I am preparing a speech right now, which I think is important for the
graduating student body going out in the world," he said, "that they should
keep in mind the student activism that permeated the college and bring that
with them wherever they're going; that student activism made a college like
this for working-class people possible."
Administrators had been adamant that Chow would not address his peers.
"We would invite the president of the Student Government, whoever he or she
is, to speak, if he or she is a graduate. Mr. Chow isn't," Rich Hasselbach, a
spokesman for the college, said prior to the reversal of the decision. "For
that reason, and only for that reason, he hasn't been invited."