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COMMENTARY: Is Obama really best Rutgers 250 commencement speaker?


In Rutgers' 250 years of rich academic excellence, students of all walks of life have had the privilege of being a part of a historic research institution. Public state universities play a key role in society by creating opportunities for those who are under-privileged or those who took a little longer than expected to show their brilliance, and did not have the well-rounded attributes as early in life as the students who received Ivy League acceptances.

Rutgers has now confirmed that, for its historic 250th commencement ceremony of the school, President Barack Obama, a Columbia University and Harvard Law School graduate, will be the speaker for what is arguably one of the most notable events in the school’s history.

Any person that goes into the work force with any of the eight Ivy League institutions on his resume cannot possible empathize with what the student body of a public institution is facing in modern-day America’s job market. Rutgers is a non-target school in the eyes of the recruiters who hunt for talent at Ivy League institutions' graduation days.

This man did not face the humble process of finding employment that public school graduates face. The majority of the students here at Rutgers University take advantage of the reduced tuition rate for in-state residents, and many of our students cannot even afford to live here on campus and be fully entrenched in the community, but are appreciative of the opportunity to even be attempting to better themselves through higher education.

This is not the experience that this president experienced. This is a man that graduated from two schools that award their students more privileges than almost every other school on the planet. This is a man who claims to care so greatly about wealth inequality, but allows his alma mater, Columbia University, to hoard an endowment of more than $9 billion and Harvard’s endowment totals more than three times that amount. All the while, both institutions trail Rutgers total enrollment by more than 10,000 students.

Obama condescendingly claims to be putting forth effort in making higher education more affordable and potentially making community colleges free, and that is conveniently easy for a man with two Ivy League degrees to claim — that he is helping out American youth by helping them go to school at the only institutions that legally cannot reject your applications if you live within the county they serve.

Community colleges are the only institutions that make students who attend them feel an incessant need to explain why they chose to go there when asked where they go to school. As opposed to accepting that these students are attempting to better themselves, a judgment is imposed on the quality of their education at the least exclusive schools in the country. Being a graduate of one those institutions, I can personally attest to having that brand name with me for the remainder of my life is a consequence I wish I did not have to live with.

Obama does not represent the opportunity that the State University of New Jersey has brought forth for those who were not considered brilliant their entire lives. Our students do not have the opportunities thrown down our throat like the recipients of the same education our president received and bringing him here, to speak at Rutgers’ historic celebration, is the student body collectively saying we care and admire what successful Ivy League graduates have to say more so than the graduates of the same institution that we all attend.

Nicholas Demarest is a Rutgers Business School junior majoring in accounting. He is a correspondent for Inside Beat Magazine.

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