Commencement speaker’s absence a disappointment

By Editorial Board

In just a matter of weeks, graduating seniors will finally get to attend the event they have anticipated so greatly after years of hard work, persistence and waiting: graduation.

This year’s ceremony for the School of Media Arts on May 17, however, comes with a bit of a twist, or more like a sour tang—there will be no in-person guest speaker.

It was recently announced that esteemed fiction author, Ray Bradbury—who was scheduled to speak at the School of Media Arts ceremony—will not be attending Columbia’s commencement ceremony and Manifest parade due to health reasons.

To make up for Bradbury’s in-person absence, a pre-recorded speech from the author will be shown on a big screen at the ceremony.

At 88 years old, it is understandable Bradbury’s health concerns would play a major factor in getting him all the way to Chicago. But it still doesn’t soften the blow that after four years of hard work—not to mention entering the most tumultuous job market in decades—all the Class of 2009 gets in terms of a guest speaker is a pre-recorded speech on a big-screen TV.

Really, Columbia? So much for entering the future with optimism.

Even though Bradbury won’t be in attendance, perhaps the most infuriating thing about this whole situation is that most graduating seniors had absolutely no idea of his cancellation—aside from a one-paragraph mention in an e-mail about RSVPing to Industry Night events in students’ Loop e-mail accounts.

While it would be nearly impossible for Columbia to book a speaker of Bradbury’s caliber on such short notice, at the very least, they could have booked someone else who is in the Chicago vicinity.

There are plenty of talented and qualified writers or media professionals right in the Chicago area who would be excellent commencement speakers.

Maybe Columbia already had a plan of action in mind for breaking the news, but for something as important as this—more could have been done.

Silly as it may sound, when graduating seniors have spent such an astronomical amount of money to finance years of  hard work, they are in need of some sort of reward—even if it is just a last-minute speaker at their college graduation—to reap the benefits.