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Protesters Say Weill Doesn't Deserve Degree, Vow No Grauation Disruption

Student body torn. Though some are against the university's decision to give honorary degrees to wealthy donors, many don't want their graduation ceremony disrupted.

Students are conflicted about a demonstration planned at Sonoma State University Saturday — at the same time that an estimated 2,300 students are graduating — to protest the university's award of an honorary doctorate degree to the Weills, who donated millions to the university's Green Music Center.

A growing number of students have vetted concerns through social media, saying they're upset the cermony could be disrupted by protesters.

However, organizers have defended the protest, saying it won't disrupt the ceremony.

"It does not intend in any way to disrupt graduation proceedings," according to organizers — a coalition of Sonoma State faculty, students and local Occupy activists. "On the contrary, this is an urgent call to defend the integrity of the ceremony and denounce the unacceptable insult that Mr. Weill's dishonorable doctorate degree represents."

Commencement for the Schools of Science and Technology and Social Science are scheduled for 9 a.m., and for the Schools of Education, Arts and Humanities and Business and Economics at 3 p.m.The graduation ceremonies typically draw 10,000 people to SSU's Commencement lawn on the Rohnert Park campus.

The keynote speaker is Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, a leading writer and commentator of the hip-hop generation whose topics include culture, politics, and education.

Protesters are upset university will present an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Sanford I. Weill and an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree to his wife Joan.

The couple donated $12 million to SSU to the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall, Lawn and Commons at the nearly completed Donald and Maureen Green Music Center at SSU.

Sanford Weill is a former chief executive at Citigroup, which has hit a focal point in the protest. Students, faculty and members of the county's Occupy movement have announced that's the crux of the reason they plan to protest him receiving an honorary degree, though the university has stood behind its decision to honor the couple.

Dubbed the "Day of Shame on Sonoma State University" is to protest Citibank's role in home foreclosures and its federal bailout, protesters said.

Graduating student Melanie Campbell Sanders said on a Facebook post she is "compelled to protest."

"My family has waited years and years and years to watch me walk across that stage, and Sanford Weill's purchased doctorate degree will literally insult that honor to its core," Sanders said.

One faculty member, Cynthia Boaz, questioned the protest in a Facebook post. She said it will disrupt the students' graduation ceremony and "alienate more people than it will recruit to the cause."

SSU President Ruben Arminana said the Weills, who are from New York and own a home in Sonoma County, have a long history of philanthropy, and a commitment to healthcare, the arts and education.

This article is by Angela Hart and Bay City News.

Tracey Fox May 14, 2012 at 01:53 AM
It is an insult to all those students that studied so hard for their degree, not to mention the fact Mr. Weill definately benefitted from the bail out by the government.

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