Debate Opens About Lavin Speaking At Commencement

As the countdown toward graduation comes to an end, fervor about commencement decisions have sprung up, with students taking opposing sides about an in-house decision for who will give the Class of 2012 their final words before heading off into the real world.

Men’s basketball head coach Steve Lavin had been announced as the keynote speaker at the 142 Commencement in a release from the University April 12. While some students reacted with appreciation for the coach – who led the Red Storm to its first NCAA tournament appearance last year since 2002 – others began to speak against the decision.

By April 13, a Facebook group asking for a new commencement speaker formed. By the time the Torch went to print, the page had 458 members.

Several members of the page, however, wrote that protesting the selection of Lavin – or asking for a new commencement speaker – was useless, or that they disagreed with acting out against the selection.

Many students, including James Brucato, a sports management major, said Lavin was a good choice to send graduates into the real world.

“On first hearing that coach Steve Lavin was going to be our commencement speaker, I was ecstatic,” he said.

Brucato said he disagreed with the nature of the Facebook group, saying Lavin was the ideal choice. “When I heard about this Facebook group trying to find another commencement speaker, I was surprised, shocked, and a bit angry,” he said. “It surprised me that people didn’t think Steve Lavin was a good choice.”

Brucato related Lavin to Syracuse Men’s Basketball Head Coach Jim Boheim, saying by reviving an average program, he put pride back into the school.

Nicole Musco started the Facebook group because she disagreed with the choice of Lavin, and was inspired by a similar page from last year. The page protested last year’s original choice to not call names at graduation.

“Through speaking to other students in my classes and through my Facebook wall/Twitter account I knew I was not alone in being the only one let down by the choice of speaker,” she said in an email. “As there are people that agree with me, there has also been debates coming from the opposite argument.”

Musco said that even if this year’s actions do not lead to change, she hopes it will lead to what she said was a lack of student say in commencement organization.

“I realize that there is a month before graduation, and commencement speakers take time and due diligence to coordinate, but I am hopeful this will shed a light on the issue that the graduating class would like a say in who is speaking at their graduation. If nothing else, some people find it insulting that St. John’s is using their most recent investment, Coach Lavin and saving money by not booking another speaker,” she said.

Dominic Scianna, assistant vice president for Media Relations, gave a statement on Lavin’s selection and the response from students.

“Steve [Lavin] will be a great commencement speaker and is very popular with our student body,” he said. “The University felt he would be the appropriate choice for this year’s Class of 2012.”

Scianna noted that the University has normally met with Student Government, Inc. through the years to consult the student body on  who they would prefer as a speaker. He said Lavin had been on SGI’s list since he was hired at the University.