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Smith Faculty Are Not Happy Student Activists Ruined Christine Lagarde's Commencement Address

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LAGARDE
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde speaks during a news conference at World Bank Group-International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington, Saturday, April 12, 2014. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

A large group of faculty at Smith College are speaking out after a protest pushed International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde to cancel her planned commencement address, which was set for Sunday.

Lagarde, the first female leader of the IMF, was invited to speak at Smith, a women's liberal arts college in Massachusetts. An online petition that withheld any direct criticism of Lagarde claimed it was a poor choice to invite the leader of the IMF due to the activists' disagreement with the institution's policies. The petition collected fewer than 500 signatures.

The school announced Monday that Lagarde decided not to speak at the college.

A group of 120 faculty issued a statement Thursday:

We, faculty members at Smith College, are disappointed that Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, has withdrawn as the College’s 2014 commencement speaker. We endorse the view expressed by Kathleen McCartney, President of the College, in her message to the Smith community (May 12): “An invitation to speak at a commencement is not an endorsement of all views or policies of an individual or the institution she or he leads. Such a test would preclude virtually anyone in public office or position of influence. Moreover, such a test would seem anathema to our core values of free thought and diversity of opinion.”

Separately, a group of 13 economics professors issued a statement expressing disappointment in Lagarde's decision against speaking, and calling it a "lost opportunity:"

Many of our students share in this disappointment. There was a great deal of excitement on campus at the prospect of hearing from Madame Lagarde, who has achieved the rare distinction of becoming a female leader of a global economic institution. We acknowledge the controversy that surrounds International Monetary Fund (IMF) policies and, as individual economists, hold a range of views on these policies and the complex, difficult problems they seek to address. We also recognize the evolving nature of the IMF as an institution and in that context, looked forward to hearing Madame Lagarde’s remarks.

Smith President Kathleen McCartney had said in a statement when Lagarde initially canceled, "Those who objected will be satisfied that their activism has had a desired effect. But at what cost to Smith College?"

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