Supposed commencement speaker Eric Walsh, Pasadena’s Director of Public Health, has cancelled his plans to speak at the Spring 2014 graduation, according to a statement released by the District this afternoon after questions were raised about whether or not he was ever publicly board-approved to be the speaker in the first place.
“Due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict, Dr. Eric Walsh will be unable to serve as Commencement speaker on May 9th,” the statement reads. “The Board of Trustees will approve a replacement speaker and authorize the college president to issue a formal invitation.”
The board will hold a special meeting tomorrow to discuss the commencement issue at 7 p.m. in the Creveling lounge.
The Courier has been unable to obtain any public records confirming that a vote to choose Walsh ever took place. The Los Angeles Times reported last week that two board members insist that no vote to select Walsh ever took place despite a school statement asserting otherwise.
“The Board’s position to invite Dr. Walsh was voted on by the Board and stands as its final decision,” the statement issued on Apr. 21 reads.
Student Trustee Simon Fraser explained that he was at every public board meeting, and the board had never publicly approved Walsh as a speaker. He also argued that the District statement claiming Walsh was board-approved was not correct.
“I have attended every open session board meeting and at none of those was a vote taken on Dr. Walsh,” Fraser said. “Dr. Walsh was only ever mentioned during the President’s report on April 2, which is not in any way actionable. The board should own up and admit that its original statement was not correct.”
Associated Students President Jordyn Orozco said that the only time Walsh was mentioned as a possible speaker was at the board’s April 2 meeting during the President’s report.
“The only time they mentioned it was on April 2. [Vice President] Bell just brought it up and blindsided me and Simon,” he said. “As far as I know there were no votes taken. It was a suggestion that was just moved forward with.”
Controversy arose over commencement speaker choices after Oscar winner and PCC alumnus Dustin Lance Black, who was on the board-approved shortlist of potential speakers, said he was disinvited by the college to speak.
Board president Anthony Fellow explained that it was not the right time to have Black speak, after Fellow was made aware of nude photos of Black that surfaced on the Internet in 2009.
“With …the sex scandals we’ve had on campus this year, it just didn’t seem like the right time for Mr. Black to be the speaker,” he said. “We’ll be on the radio and on television. We just didn’t want to give PCC a bad name.”
It is unclear who the next commencement speaker will be. Orozco believes it should be Black.
“As much as it would be taking ten steps back, I still think we should invite Dustin. He is the only one that has been through the policy and the process. There is no reason why we shouldn’t ask him,” he said.
Fraser also agreed that Black should be the commencement speaker.
“The board should not have concerns with Black and invite him back,” he said.