By Phoebe Doscher, Assistant News Editor
On Monday, April 29, President of the Class of 2019 Olivia Lanctot sent out an email update to the senior class reaffirming her support to appoint Josh Wagner as the senior Commencement speaker.
The update comes following the petition to remove Wagner as Commencement speaker when copies of his article “13 Places Safer than FIJI Basement on Friday Night: Number 11 will Shock You!” from the 2018 April Fools edition of The Gettysburgian were posted on bulletin boards in Glatfelter Hall. Professor Cassie Hays of the sociology department had pinned the article, which was found with highlighted sections such as “6. OJ Simpson’s bedroom,” and “10. The extras’ dressing room on the Cosby Show.”
The petition was started by students who felt that satirical article made light of sexual assault. In response, Wagner published an opinion article in The Gettysburgian titled, “Sexual Assault is a Serious Issue.”
Lanctot sent out the update Monday evening following evaluation of student responses to the petition with the administration as well as meetings with Wagner, the selection committee — comprised of the 2019 Class Officers, student leaders, and administrators — and concerned students.
Lanctot recognized that the petition to replace Wagner has made for a challenging process as the president of the class and said she received and considered information from those involved in order to come to the decision to back Wagner as the Commencement speaker.
Although the petition expressed thoughtful concerns, Lanctot noted several “design flaws” including the form’s anonymity and lack of authentication, which allowed the submission of fake responses as well as some from people that are not members of the Class of 2019.
She said that the petition also left out pertinent information, including a previous article published in The Gettysburgian by the presidents of the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Council addressing action against sexual assault. Moreover, Phi Gamma Delta, which was referenced in Wagner’s article, was invited to publicly respond to the piece but declined to do so.
Lanctot acknowledged concerns raised in the petition about the committee’s lack of knowledge of complaints about Wagner before its deliberations, but she emphasized that the students’ concerns were taken into consideration before reaffirming support of Wagner.
Wagner himself spoke to peers on the use of satire to address “delicate issues.”
“I think that this has been a learning opportunity for everyone, and I don’t foresee this being written down as a divisive issue in our campus’s history. While we might have some differing opinions on the rhetorical strategies to be used, we all agree that sexual assault is a serious issue facing our community that needs to be addressed” he said.
Additionally, Wagner voiced his appreciation for the work of the Officers of the Class of 2019, “The class officers did a great job at listening to all voices and have been extraordinarily transparent during the entire process” he said.
The update ended with a summary of Wagner’s accomplishments and prior articles for The Gettysburgian that reinforce Lanctot’s support. She noted Wagner’s articles in favor of commitment to freedom of expression and upholding college values, and his work in Gettysburg’s Center for Public Service and College life.
In order to continue the conversation, Lanctot invited students to attend an nGender Discussion in the Women’s and LGBTQA Resource Center on Tuesday, April 30 from 11:45 to 1 p.m. to “explore the current campus conversation regarding the use of satire to expose injustice, how narratives and power are being used to highlight and address concerns, and the decision making process for the 2019 student commencement speaker.”
Editor’s Note: This piece was edited on Tuesday, May 30 at 4:30 p.m. to add a quote from Josh Wagner (-P. Doscher)