- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2002

An invitation requesting first lady Laura Bush to speak at a UCLA graduate school commencement ceremony this summer has met resistance from some students and faculty members who argue Mrs. Bush isn't qualified to speak.
The protesting students and professors at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies charge that Mrs. Bush has "shallow credentials," and have asked university officials to rescind the invitation sent earlier this month.
"She was selected for her political celebrity," Tara Watford, a doctoral student in education, said in an interview with the Daily Bruin, a student newspaper. "The commencement speaker should speak to us based on achievements in the field. [Mrs. Bush] has no merit."
The school has 900 students. The commencement ceremony is scheduled for June 15.
Groups such as the Independent Women's Forum (IWF) and the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute are calling the student protest an example of "selective free speech" on college campuses. They said conservatives have more trouble getting access to college campuses than those with different viewpoints.
"This is just a recurring example of the college students' inability to accept dissenting viewpoints and the inability to accept Mrs. Bush's presence on campus," said Kate Kennedy, IWF's campus projects manager and associate editor of SheThinks.org.
"There's definitely a bias when you look at the credentials of past speakers who participated in commencement ceremonies," said Lisa De Pasquale, Luce Policy Institute program director.
Past commencement speakers at UCLA include: the Rev. Jesse Jackson, civil rights leader; actors Annette Bening and Rob Reiner; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, basketball player; Michael Dukakis, 1988 Democratic presidential candidate; and Angela Oh, a lawyer and former member of President Clinton's Initiative on Race Relations in the United States. Miss Oh spoke at last year's commencement ceremony at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.
A spokeswoman for Mrs. Bush said yesterday the first lady "has not accepted any invitations to speak at any commencement ceremonies at this time." The spokeswoman also said the first lady's office was not aware of the student protest until they read about it in the school's newspaper yesterday.
The school's dean, Aimee Dorr, said yesterday she selected five candidates to speak and ranked Mrs. Bush first. Miss Dorr asked for advice on her selection from a faculty executive committee, and after getting the candidates approved, the university chancellor sent an invitation to Mrs. Bush. Miss Dorr said the university would not rescind that invitation. She declined to disclose the other four candidates.
Miss Dorr said Mrs. Bush is quite qualified to be the school's commencement speaker. Mrs. Bush holds a bachelor's degree in education and a master's degree in library science and has worked as a teacher and librarian. Over the years, she has spearheaded several initiatives, including "Ready to Read, Ready to Learn" and "Reach Out and Read" that promote the teaching profession and advocate literacy.
"Mrs. Bush has a pretty good record for encouraging the teaching profession, advocating librarianship," Miss Dorr said. "This is the school of education and information studies. Her record seemed like a good fit."
Miss Dorr also said some students warned her of the political implications of inviting Mrs. Bush. "That was to be expected," Miss Dorr said. "Whenever you have a high-level, political person who comes to speak at your school, you can reasonably expect that people may demonstrate."

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