Tensions surrounding this year’s commencement speaker escalated today, after a spokesperson for The George Washington University chastised a student publicly on social media. The dustup, which can be found here, drew criticism from students, alumni, and current faculty for its tone, with many calling it condescending and out of touch. Since then, the tweet has been deleted and the University’s Twitter account said that they had, “missed the tone on this one.”
Associate professor Nikki Usher responded to the University’s statement, tweeting, “Today I got an email surveying my engagement with building alumni connections. Not sure how to do that when the official university account is indeed sassing one of its best and brightest.”
The student, Devan Cole, is a graduating senior and served in the Student Association Senate this year as the Chair of the Finance Committee. Cole has been an outspoken critic of the University in regards to Dr. McNutt and has repeatedly raised concerns regarding her selection as this year’s commencement speaker. When contacted for comment, Cole said that the University official who sent the original tweet contacted him privately to apologize for the interaction.
Cole continued, saying, “I asked that he, Lorraine Voles [GW’s Vice President for External Affairs], and President LeBlanc release a statement addressing student disappointment with the speaker, and that contains a thorough explanation of how they picked this year’s speaker and a formal apology for Leblanc’s hot mic comments.”
“My tweets express most of feelings around this but I’ll say it again: students critiquing their school should never be subjected to belittling and sarcasm by the school. Additionally, I find it deeply concerning that instead of addressing the real concerns that students have about this year’s speaker, the university chastised a student for what was, in actuality, a simple question.”
The hot mic comments came from WRGW’s exclusive interview with President LeBlanc, where he asked if students “have no shame” in criticizing Dr. McNutt.
Outgoing SA Senator and Chair of the Student Life Committee Imani Ross also responded, posting, “Umm what out of touch intern decided to take creative license and craft a tasteless tweet to sass a concerned graduating student whose given back to this university in more ways than our precious speaker can say she’s stepped foot on campus?”
Current Student Association Peak Sen Chua and Executive Vice President Sydney Nelson responded to the controversy, saying, “Student voices are always important. (The Student Association) has reached out to External Relations and notified them that the tone of the tweet was not appreciated by students.”
The University was not immediately available for comment.