IMF Head Lagarde Withdraws As Smith Commencement Speaker

Smith College says the head of the International Monetary Fund has decided not to participate at is commencement this coming weekend, following anti-IMF protests on campus.

Christine Lagarde, the first woman to lead the IMF, had been selected to receive an honorary degree from Smith and give its commencement address. But in a letter to college president Kathleen McCartney, Lagarde said she’d heard from students opposing her selection and she did not want to detract from graduation. McCartney says this does not bode well for diversity of opinion on campus.

“An invitation to speak at commencement is not an endorsement of all views or all policies of an individual or the institution she leads. Such a test would preclude virtually anyone in public office or position of influence to serve as a commencement speaker,” McCartney says.

The IMF is a target for some activists over its international development polices. Smith senior Sibyl Brown, who helped organize an online petition opposing Lagarde’s selection, says she’s ecstatic over the change.

“We just want someone with different values, someone who has a different meaning who’s representing a different cause in the world to kind of send us off after graduation.”

Brown says she’s thrilled that former Smith College  President Ruth Simmons would now give the commencement address. Simmons, who is now at Brown University,  was already scheduled to receive an honorary degree on Sunday.