Registration is significantly higher for Meliora Weekend this year at 3,540 compared to 2,200 last year. This year’s program features both celebrity and controversial figures including Hillary Clinton, Ted Turner, Salman Rushdie and Jon Stewart. This year’s theme is leadership.
“At this point, [registration] has been resounding ? a good deal higher than the last year’s,” Dean for College Advancement Dr. Robert Bartlett said.
Meliora Weekend was established in 2001 as a celebration that would occur annually.
“Meliora Weekend was launched as a tradition. Traditions develop as time goes on and an event such as this is truly unprecedented, higher in scope, variety, depth and diversity of topics and students, alumni and parents are responding to that,” Bartlett said.
The increase in the number of registrants is especially high among students. Since registration opened, 820 students registered this year compared to 500 last year.
Complaints from alumni surrounding the speakers have been minimal ? no more than 20 in total with most of the concerns directed toward Clinton.
The College Republicans have taken notice that the speakers on campus are liberals. Last year the highlight of Meliora Weekend was democrat and former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley. This year, democrat and New York State Senator Clinton has been invited to speak.
“Conservative voices feel marginalized,” sophomore and Second Chairman of the College Republicans Cedric Logan said.
“I am not upset that Hillary Clinton is coming but we are upset by what seems to be the trend of inviting liberal politicians to campus,” Logan said.
Students do agree that everyone should listen to what she says.
“I think that the entire point of a liberal education is to listen and learn from those whom you may disagree with,” senior and College Democrat Josh Gifford said. “I believe that if people listen to her talk, many may be surprised and learn to like her.”
Turner has also been in the news because of anti-Israel comments accusing the country of terrorism in the UK newspaper “The Guardian” on June 18. According to a press release by the Anti-Defamation League on June 20, Turner sent a letter apologizing for his comments justifying Palestinian suicide bombers.
“I thought it would not hurt to post [on the alumni Web site] something here regarding the disgusting comments Ted Turner made recently about Jewish people,” an anonymous Class of 1997 alumnus wrote. “As a Jewish person and 1997 alum, I find this to be completely unacceptable.”
Bartlett said he believes that this year’s guests are notable intellectuals and hopes that they will spark discussion within the UR community. “The program is designed for the most notable people to respond, react, struggle and grapple with ideas,” Bartlett said. “In no way would we censor or offend anybody.”
The controversy surrounding this year’s Meliora Weekend speakers continues as students push for a broader range of views to be represented. “The trend of inviting liberal speakers has two harmful effects,” Logan said. “One, it reflects badly on UR because the university appears closed-minded, and two, it silences diverse viewpoints on campus.”
Logan urges those who are dissatisfied to take action. “The most important thing people can do is complain to the administration,” he said.
Desai can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.