Notre Dame Graduation Controversy


Photo courtesy of South Bend Tribune: Mike Pence spoke at The University of Notre Dame commencement but over 100 students walked out in protest.

Brooke Gagnon, Photojournalist

On May 21st, many Notre Dame graduating students and audience members walked out of their graduation ceremony following the introduction of commencement speaker Vice President Mike Pence.

Notre Dame has a tradition of inviting a newly elected president to speak at graduation. In 2001, President George W. Bush visited and spoke, and in 2009, President Barack Obama did the same. This year, Notre Dame invited Vice President Mike Pence because President Donald Trump was believed to be too controversial of a choice. However, this still upset many students and audience members because of Pence’s views on various subjects such as abortion and gay rights. Pence has been under scrutiny in the past for his history of endorsing and enacting anti-LGBTQ policies. Approximately 150 students and visitors walked out of the ceremony after booing Pence. Many were wearing rainbow flags on their graduation caps. It was viewed as an expression of freedom of speech. This stage protest had been planned for weeks since the presence of the Vice President was announced earlier this year. The university and campus police departments were made aware of this protest so were able to handle it accordingly.

The Vice President’s speech addressed Notre Dame a “vanguard of freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas” during his commencement address. Students were freely expressing their opposition to Pence and his ideals by exiting the graduation ceremony.

When asked about the event, Nicole Gagnon (11) responded, “I think it is a shame that they missed part of their graduation ceremony. They had worked so hard for it for the last four years, and it seems like a shame to miss a part of it. However I do support their choice of supporting freedom of speech. Although Mike Pence may not be the most likable man, the students were peaceful in how they handled their situation which I think is good. They did not want to be there so they simply left without causing a big deal, but they still were able to stand up for what they believe in.” Whether or not students agree, it is great to see students peacefully practicing their first amendment rights. Since YLHS does not invite any outside speakers, it is unlikely to see any form of protest from the Class of 2017.