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Criticism of commencement speaker choice unfounded

Will Guappone | Monday, March 19, 2007

When I read that Saint Mary’s students were protesting the selection of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito as their commencement speaker, I was surprised. After reading that one of the protesters was emotionally shocked and angered by the decision, I felt confident that, upon reading the rest of the article, I would discover what Alito had done that would make him ill-suited for the role of commencement speaker at a Catholic school, even though he is Catholic.

However, in reading the article, I only found statements indicating that the protesters were in support of the buzzwords that NOW (National Organization for Women) used in its opposition to Alito. Ignoring the fact that NOW is about as credible a source for the left as Pat Robertson is for the right, I think there are some misrepresentations of Alito’s record that should be explained to students.

For example, the protesters claim Alito has decided against women’s rights on issues of sexual harassment. In Robinson v. City of Pittsburgh, the case used by NOW as justification for this complaint, Alito wrote the majority opinion. He merely stated that a higher-ranking officer was not culpable for the sexual harassment committed by a subordinate officer because the higher-ranking officer did not have supervisory control of that officer. In addition, Alito determined that, in this case, there was insufficient evidence that the offending officer’s supervisor had any knowledge of the harassment.

Neither of these rulings appear unreasonable, which is probably why this was the majority opinion. Yet, this ruling was deemed to support sexual harassment. Although Alito holds a different view on these issues than some Saint Mary’s students, this difference does not mean that his personal beliefs are in contrast with the core values of Saint Mary’s. Rather, it simply means that he interprets the law in a different manner than others.

This perspective does not make Alito a sexual-harassment-loving, woman-hating caveman, or even a poor choice as Saint Mary’s commencement speaker. Instead, it simply makes him a federal judge who is forced to make decisions based on laws – rather than emotions, religion or NOW’s propaganda.

Will Guappone


Fisher Hall

Mar. 14