University of California, San Diego

SUBJECT: Commencement Speaker
In adopting a three-year trial for a general campus commencement, UCSD has embarked on a course that has not yet been fully charted. Because our campus has not previously held all-campus commencements, we do not have a consultative procedure for selecting a speaker to give the main address. We have been fortunate that through unique circumstances the first general commencement address was delivered by the President of the United States and the second will be delivered by the Speaker of the House. It is now appropriate to establish a procedure that will allow the views of the UCSD community to be represented in the process through which a commencement speaker is selected.
I am appointing a committee whose task will be to propose a procedure for consulting students, faculty and staff in a way that is appropriate to conduct negotiations with highly public figures. I expect the committee to recommend a plan to me before the end of the current academic year. There is a degree of urgency because by next fall we need to have begun the selection process for the 1999 commencement. The committee will be composed of the following: the current and former Presidents of the Associated Students (or designates), the President of the Graduate Students Association (or designate), two college provosts, two students from the undergraduate college student councils, two faculty members (selected by the Academic Senate's Committee on Committees), the President of the Staff Association (or designate), and Vice Chancellor- Student Affairs Joseph Watson. Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs David Miller will chair the committee.
Since many members of the UCSD campus have expressed to me their concern about how the commencement speaker for the 1998 graduate was chosen, I want to clarify that process. Shortly after an ad hoc committee appointed to study campus graduation ceremonies issued its report and I decided to pursue a campus-wide commencement on a trial basis, I was informed that the Speaker of the House was available to deliver the commencement address at UCSD. With the ceremony a mere eleven weeks away, there was unfortunately little time for wide campus consultation; an immediate decision was required. My decision to invite Newt Gingrich was based on the distinction of his office. As Speaker of the House, he is just behind the Vice President in line for the presidency and thus is one of the nation's highest ranking public figures. Speaker Gingrich has long been an active and effective advocate for research universities. I recognize, also, that he is a
controversial choice for many reasons. But as Chancellor I wholeheartedly believe that one of the university's most important functions is to serve as a forum for intellectual debate, airing of controversy, and the discussion of dissident
ideas. If we are to preserve that function, we must remain open to the expression of all points of view. By inviting President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich to address our graduating classes, we signal our role as a major forum for contending ideas. I hope you will all join with me at UCSD's 1998 commencement ceremony in honoring our graduating seniors and in giving Speaker Gingrich a courteous hearing.
Robert C. Dynes