Vest Was the Easy Way Out
You know, it was a major disappointment to hear that Charles Vest would be our Commencement Speaker. Don't get us wrong, we like Chuck Vest — nice guy, good President, did some great things for MIT. But a commencement speaker is supposed be captivating and bring new insight and outside perspective to graduates who are about to enter the real world. Vest has barely left — I mean, he's still a professor here. If you want to hear him speak, go any day of the week, and knock on his office door at 32G-618. Moreover, he was President for the majority of our years here, so we already know him quite well.
The fact is, this is one step short of just having Hockfield speak twice at our graduation — it's a major cop-out on MIT's part. It's almost as if MIT is feeling parental attachment to their beloved Chuck Vest who has left home.
But what really gets to us is the way MIT completely ignored student input. It's a safe bet that no senior had Chuck Vest as their top choice for Commencement Speaker, even if they loved him as President. A lot of seniors we talked to had submitted great suggestions to the Selection Committee. But once again, MIT throws student input out the window. It states on the Commencement Speaker Selection Web site that President Hockfield has the ultimate authority on selecting the speaker. This letdown of a decision shows that Hockfield made little effort to consider student input. Chances are Chuck Vest was selected because the administration knows that he is too nice of a guy to turn down the offer. MIT has enough prestige to invite a truly charismatic speaker who's had a large impact on the world — clearly, no real attempt was made to do so.
It's the seniors who are graduating, who get one Commencement. The faculty on the Selection Committee are probably going to be here for decades. Judging by the fact that no senior we've talked to likes the decision, we feel that the Committee should survey all seniors, and if the majority does not approve, they should find another speaker. If the Committee is too incompetent or lazy to do so, then they should at least explain their decision publicly.
Meanwhile, as much as we hate to compare MIT with Harvard, the commencement speakers at Harvard (yes, more than one) this year will be President Bill Clinton and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. We don't know about you guys, but it looks like we got the short end of the stick.
If you want to read more student opinion, we suggest you visit the "I would rather have Cookie Monster as a graduation speaker than Chuck Vest" Facebook group.
Nikhil S. Nadkarni '07