Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
The students who led a campaign to find an alternative commencement speaker for WPI’s graduating class received some good news from the school late Saturday night: they’ll be able to miss ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s commencement speech and still walk across the stage later in the ceremony.
The school will provide a back row of chairs for students who opt to quietly arrive late. Previously, school administrators said students who left would not be allowed back in and would receive their diplomas through the mail.
Commencement day will look like this: the speeches and honorary degree awards will start at the normal time. Students who disagree with having Tillerson as their commencement speaker will probably still have to arrive at the same time as everyone else, they’ll just be off in a different area. Once Tillerson finishes speaking those students will slide into rows of chairs in the back. Linnea Paton Palmer, one of the students who spearheaded the dissenting campaign, wanted to make it clear this is not an excuse to show up late for the ceremony.
After the initial ceremony ends and an informal reception is held, the Post Carbon Institute’s Richard Heinberg will speak at 3:00 on the graduation stage — the one that Tillerson will have spoken on just hours earlier. All 5,000 graduation-goers are invited to attend the extra speech, as is anyone else who’s interested from the community.
The students are now working on finding prominent environmental groups to endorser the speech, but since Heinberg isn’t receiving any money for speaking the students are just looking for groups to help spread the word.