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37° Good Afternoon

Student's speech to commence

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

expressed outrage.

But in another twist yesterday afternoon, Chow learned that administrators

had relented.

Administrators, responding to pressure from student leaders and elected

officials, agreed to allow Chow to speak for three minutes.

"We resolved the conflict," said Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn), chairman of

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."

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