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Hampshire College Replaces Commencement Speaker After Students Complain

Hampshire College has selected a new speaker for its commencement ceremony after students raised concerns about the college president’s choice, the Springfield Republican reported.

The president, Jonathan Lash, said in a letter to the campus that he had chosen Emily Wong, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, in part because the college had been unable to lure the individuals nominated by the graduating class, and in part because his conversations with her “felt so Hampshire-esque.”

Students’ nominations included the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, the actress Lupita Nyong’o, and Bernie Sanders, among other prominent figures.

In his letter, Mr. Lash explained why those individuals could not appear and why he had asked Dr. Wong not to speak at Hampshire’s commencement after all.

“In light of the issues our community has been discussing in recent weeks, and the fact that the suggestion of Dr. Wong as a speaker came from me, rather than from students, I felt that this was the right thing to do,” he wrote.

The college said in a news release that it had selected a new speaker in response to requests that it identify someone “who could directly address student concerns.” The new speaker will be Reina Gossett, an activist and filmmaker. Hampshire’s news release said faculty members had proposed Ms. Gossett in consultation with students “because her life and work engage the issues that have been raised by students around anti-blackness, transphobia, and sexual violence.”

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