In the spring of 1970, the School of Foreign Service announced that its commencement ceremonies for the first time,
would, include an address by a senior, one elected by the graduating class.
Simultaneously, though, the SFS Dean's Office released a ballot
listing ten student candidates, all of whom chosen by the School's Administration.
Immediately, there were protests from seniors,
arguing that the class itself ought to be able to choose
its own candidates in this election.
The result was an election with two write-in candidates
in addition to the approved ten.
One of those write-ins was Harvey Volzer,
a student who, all during his G.U. years, had made a name for himself
as spokesman for the typical SFS students.
Needless to say, Volzer won the election in a landslide.
Only with some trepidation, however, did the School authorities consent
to Volzer's being the commencement speaker.
Their letting him do so turned out to be a mistake
that they would never again let happen.
Volzer's address given on June 6, 1870, upset the entire G.U. nomenklatura.
Instead of doing what student radicals all over America were that spring doing,
i.e., sanctimoniously denouncing imperialist America, or corporate greed,
or whatever else happened to be safely far removed from their own campuses
(and, therefore, out of their own responsibility),
Harvey Volzer directed his address to the dishonesty and hypocrisy
rampant within his own university and among his own senior class.
Reprinted below is the Volzer speech.
Never before have G.U. academics gotten such a public lambasting
in a forum of their own making.
Scores of the people targeted, along with their families,
chose to leave their seats midway during the speech
and, in protest, to storm off to the rear of the hall,
where they milled about, complaining loudly.
The great majority of Harvey Volzer's classmates, though, cheered him lustily
for, finally, telling it as it was (and still is) at G.U.
For the first time in the history of the Foreign Service School, a graduating senior is speaking at the Tropaia Exercises. The intention behind this innovation was, I suppose, to have some kind of self-congratulating speech praising the virtues of this Class and of the parents and teachers who fostered them.
And, of course, such a speech should end with the graduates' spokesman offering the world all kinds of advice on how to mend its ways.
But I cannot co-operate. I will not preach about this nation and the world, looking for corruption and hypocrisy, when right here in the Class of 1970 there is enough of both to occupy the full time of even the most ardent reformer.
Georgetown students went on strike last month. To protest the war, they had classes and examinations canceled. Almost every member of this graduating class took advantage of this strike to lighten significantly his school workload. But that same senior class voted overwhelmingly to hold as scheduled its prom and boat ride. Only hypocrites can reconcile the cancellation of exams with the continuation of the prom.
Over one hundred members of the Class of 1970 have declared their intention of not wearing caps and gowns during to-morrow's commencement ceremony. Supposedly they were to donate the rental fee to the Princeton campaign to elect peace candidates to Congress in November. But, as of yesterday afternoon at four o'clock, the Office of Student Activities informed me that only two SFS seniors had actually contributed the money. The rest will presumably pocket the money while marching to-morrow as idealists.
Who is responsible for this state of affairs? The students, of course, and then you parents who have spoiled your offspring, teaching them the value of position and the value of grades, but not the value of education. And finally, the blame lies with the Administration of this University and this School, which has consistently listened to the few and ignored the majority.
Time and time again the Administration has bestowed recognition and favor upon students who command little or no respect among their classmates and who have risen to their high position by brown-nosing and turkey-hunting. In other words, the key to success around here is taking as many easy courses as possible, flattering as many professors and administrators as possible and then letting the one or two difficult courses you were forced to take because of scheduling problems work themselves out.
In the election last month to determine who would give this speech, both I and the senior who came in second, Joseph Mitchell, were write-in candidates. The ten, official, Administration-approved candidates listed on the ballot got, altogether, only a fraction of the total vote.
The result of this system of advancement by ingratiation and not by merit is that regularly the Administration appoints to important committees students who do not represent the views of the majority of their classmates.
For example, the two members of the Class of 1970 who served on the Dean's Search Committee were appointed by the University Administration, not elected by the student body. They contributed nothing to the Committee and, in fact, destroyed the candidacy of the most impressive applicant, Ambassador Gullion, the present Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts. Once Gullion was eliminated, they did everything they could to prevent the appointment of the man who was eventually hired as Dean of the Foreign Service School, Dr. Peter Krogh.
Why must this School always appoint un-representative students to speak for the student body? Why must it always be fooled by sycophantic student politicians who are laughed at by most of their class? The answer is obvious -- It doesn't have to!
As one respected government professor told me, "After long years of struggle the School of Foreign Service has finally won its own core faculty and a permanent Dean of some stature. But winning all these externals means nothing because the heart of the School -- its academic standards and integrity -- has been severely compromised."
For example, in the past two years certain seniors have been allowed to graduate even though their cumulative Q.P.I.'s have been less than the required minimum of 2.0.
Also, certain seniors have been allowed to graduate even though they had never taken and passed the required language oral comprehensives.
Again, certain seniors have been able to waive one required course after another. In all too many cases, the highest Q.P.I.'s in the School were acquired by their holders' selectively waiving unpleasant courses and substituting gross turkeys.
Would you like to graduate second in your class? Well, all you must do is have waived all your senior requirements and take such notorious turkeys as Economic Geography, Urban Politics, and U.S. Economic History.
[At this point about one-third of the audience stood up and began walking out of the Hall. I ad-libbed, upon seeing leaving the very persons of whom I was speaking, "I always knew that scum rises to the top; now I see that it also floats to the back."
The objection most often raised to my speech, after it was given, was that it was improper to make such personal references. I can only comment that I doubt any of my critics would have walked out, or complained afterwards, if my speech had attacked Nixon and Agnew as "Fascist pigs" or Seale and Cleaver as "Communist murderers." It all depends on whose ox is being gored, and on Tropaia day it was only because student hypocrites were getting gored that some students were upset.]
Or, how would you like to receive a degree in an even more bizarre manner? Have waived all senior requirements and become a history major in a school of foreign service.
Or, if still not satisfied, you can graduate magna cum laude by taking Economic Geography, a sophomore English course, an economic tutorial, and "War, Morality, and World Order" -- all requiring the intellect of an "epsilon semi-moron."
How can this school justify awarding the degree of Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service to seniors who have practically been excused from its core curriculum? The answer is again obvious -- It can't!
And finally, in recent years plagiarism and cheating have reached the point where the official reaction to them can best be termed as toleration. As one member of the Class of 1970, I want to protest the presence among to-morrow's graduates of two students who were caught, confessed and convicted of cheating. One paid the other $100 to take his final exam in international relations. Due to Administrative intervention, however, both will receive their diplomas. A mockery is being made of education at Georgetown!
At a party given this week in his honor, Dr. Mann said that if ever asked what he had done during this turbulent period in the School's history, he would answer, as did the Abbé Sièyes after the French Revolution, "I survived." Unfortunately the School may not be so lucky."
The following year, 1971, the School's Administration tried to ensure
that there'd be no repeat performance.
That year, the students were not allowed to chose their own speaker.
Instead, a committee of faculty was appointed by the SFS Dean
to select a student speaker for them.
That solution, however, also produced a disaster,
albeit of a quite different kind.
The chosen student speaker at the 1971 Commencement, a part American Indian,
suddenly in the midst of her address began denouncing the violent crimes
that European Culture had wrought on Native Americans,
including on those whom, she said, undoubtedly had once been living
right where the G.U. campus is now located.
And then, to show her audience what it might feel like
to be at the receiving end of violence,
the speaker pulled from a hiding place a realistic toy assault weapon,
angrily aiming it at the first rows in the auditorium,
many of whose occupants quickly dove to the floor or scrambled for safety.
In all the years since, the School has run much more controlled commencements,
requiring the senior speakers to submit to the Dean's Office, days in advance,
the texts of their proposed Tropaia Addresses.
You may wonder what provoked Harvey Volzer in 1970
to vent such ire. Here is my understanding.
Harvey Volzer, all through his years at G.U.,
had set his heart on making Phi Beta Kappa
and, as a result, studied extremely hard to maintain the necessay minimum grade average.
Midway through his senior year, though, Volzer was told
that he had not made the cut.
Knowing that his grade average was well over the minimum,
he inquired at the Dean's Office and was informed
that there is a second qualification:
One not only needs a certain Q.P.I.,
but also must be among the top twenty-five of the class.
Volzer knew that many of the top twenty-five in his class
had only achieved their rankings after having gotten waived
several of the toughest required courses
(namely, most of their foreign language and economics requirements),
instead being allowed to take several of the school's most notorious easy-grade courses.
Harvey Volzer, who had always played by the rules, was furious
and, determined to make public his grievance, rallied the bulk of his classmates
into electing him to be their class speaker at graduation.