Rauner commencement causes controversy

The decision to allow Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to speak at Southern Illinois University’s commencement has drawn some negative reaction among students and alumni.

After the Rauner announcement one student started an online petition, which has close to 2,000 signatures, asking the administration to withdraw the invitation and find a new speaker.

“You have to understand where the students are coming from,” SIU Student Trustee Adrian Miller said. “Some of these students are graduate assistants. A lot of these students are researching with grant funds that directly impact them. I can understand why there are some negative feelings toward the governor.”

SIU spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith said despite the petition, it’s an honor to have Rauner on campus.

“It’s always an honor to have a sitting governor come to your commencement and speak,” Goldsmith said. “We anticipated when we invited him, even before the budget cuts, that there would be people who would be pleased and people who would not be pleased. So we are getting some student concerns.”

“Something we pride ourselves on is allowing people to have a difference in opinions,” Miller said. “To allow him to come speak to our graduates and talk about his beliefs, that should be something that is allowed whether we agree with them or not.”

The school will allow students to tastefully display their beliefs on their mortarboards during commencement.

Rauner’s office provided WPSD with this statement on speaking at SIU commencement: “Governor Rauner is looking forward to delivering the commencement address at SIU. It’s a chance to have a conversation with students about his educational vision and congratulate them on their academic accomplishments.”

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