Campus administration has announced that public policy professor Robert Reich will deliver the commencement address for the 2015 winter graduating class.
Reich served as the U.S. secretary of labor under Bill Clinton and taught at Harvard University. On campus, he is a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies and is known by students for his popular public policy course, “Wealth and Poverty,” and the views frequently posted on his Facebook page, which has 800,000 followers.
Danielle Wiskerson, from the office of Development and Alumni Relations, said that Reich was chosen because he is “someone who has meaning to UC Berkeley and things to offer our graduates.”
Speakers at the last two semesters’ commencement ceremonies, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff and comedian Bill Maher, received mixed responses from the student body.
A UC Berkeley student organization, the Californians, compiled a list of candidates for this semester’s commencement through a survey on the Class of 2016 Facebook page. After the ASUC approved the list of candidates, it was presented to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, who sent out the final invitation.
According to the overall student director of the Californians, Nitisha Patel, Reich was ranked first on the list because of his favorable reputation on campus as well as his ability to speak in front of large crowds. Wiskerson said that it is not surprising for the Californians to choose a faculty member this year, especially because Reich is also a well-known author.
“I think that Professor Reich will be able to give a speech that will inspire the graduating class to reach for their goals and to not shy away from the things they want to achieve,” Patel said in an email.
Reich said in an email he was “honored and delighted” by the selection. He has previously spoken for graduating classes at UCLA and Excelsior College.
UC Berkeley senior Nathan Black, who plans to attend the winter ceremony and is graduating in spring 2016, said one concern he has about Reich as the commencement speaker is Reich’s political views on issues like class divisions.
“He’s not exactly someone who’s afraid to voice his opinion,” Black said. “There are scores of scientists and businessmen and people in nonprofits that I think deserve a voice to our student body and who are representative of our student body but who do so in an apolitical way.”
Wiskerson said that she is not worried that this semester’s commencement address would become overly political.
“Most students are in favor of Robert Reich, so I don’t see much disagreement this year,” said the Californians’ December graduation chair Dianne Chung in an email.
The commencement ceremony will take place Dec. 20 at Haas Pavilion and registration will be open from Monday to Nov. 23.