Opinion: In Support of Joshua Wagner as Commencement Speaker

By Hongyan Zhou ‘17 and Dawei Xue ’17

We are alumni of the Class of 2017. Recently, we heard about the ongoing campaign against Joshua Wagner as the Commencement speaker for Class of 2019 and we first felt utterly confused about the whole situation since we got the feeling that it must be a different Joshua Wagner from the one we’ve known for so long. After we figured out what it is all about, we felt nothing but disappointment. As to our humble opinion, Josh is more than qualified for the speech not only because of his academic excellence, but more importantly his impeccable integrity. We had the honor of befriending the Wagner brothers and both of them gave us an impression of integrity and honesty that none have surpassed. If we have to pick one person from all the people we met during our years at Gettysburg that cares most about fighting racism and sexual misconduct, we’d have a hard time choosing between the Wagner brothers.

As international students of Chinese heritage, we found our time at Gburg very comfortable when hanging out with Josh and Anthony since they have truly immersed themselves into different cultures and represented Gettysburg on a global stage more than once. However, when we saw those posters put on around the campus by Professor Hays in an effort to discredit Josh, we wondered what exactly went through her mind before she decided it was okay to commit such irresponsible slandering. It is clearly inappropriate, especially for a professor since they have a considerable influence on the students, to respond an issue in such a passive-aggressive way rather than trying to build a healthy conversation.

Let’s see what exactly Josh wrote in that so-called “controversial” article from last year. His article pointed out the sad truth that the unfriendly environment in terms of sexuality on this campus is hanging on a thread and his little satirical piece actually played a positive effect on the matter by bringing people’s attention to it. Although we have never been sexually assaulted before, we consider ourselves racially disadvantaged and have been discriminated against more than once on this campus. And if someone writes something like “10 states safer than Arkansas for Asians,” we wouldn’t consider this to be racially discriminative because it is clearly pointing out that such discrimination in the society does exist. The same also applies to Josh’s article. He is the just one who stands out so bravely to criticize the unjust and his words should not be misread and used against him. We agree with what Lauren Sherman wrote in The Gettysburgian: “Josh is not the problem. Sexual assault on this campus is the problem.”

Professor Hays’s comparison of Josh’s article with Mr. Garthwait’s Nazi attire is unfair. Clearly Mr. Garthwait made a mistake for “showing off” the attire, but Josh is trying to help the poor situation regarding the safety of female students by using sarcasm. These are two totally different matters. Sexual assaults are happening right on this campus and we think the college should step in and encourage people who are trying to put an end to it rather than discourage them by letting irresponsible slandering go unpunished. We put our faith in the college administration, to right the wrong by restoring Josh’s reputation via an open letter sent out to all. After all, we all know it is true that some fraternities are far behind in treating women appropriately.

Joshua Wagner is innocent and we support his appearance on the Commencement as the speaker for Class of 2019. As always, we love Gettysburg and are proud to be Gettysburgians.

Editor’s Note: Josh Wagner has recused himself as Opinions Editor from all matters related to Commencement. He had no part in reviewing or editing this article, and editorial control was exercised by Benjamin Pontz, Editor-in-Chief. Anyone who wishes to submit an opinion piece on this topic is welcome to do so by sending it to editors@gettysburgian.com. (-B. Pontz)

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Author: Gettysburgian Staff

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