The solution is simple and impossibly elegant: Let’s ban commencement speakers. Who do they benefit, besides themselves?
At best, they’re a glossy, overpriced distraction from the graduates whose accomplishment the event is meant to celebrate. At worst, they’re a colossal waste of money—a big-name speaker might easily be paid more than an assistant professor makes in a year—and a thin excuse for moneyed celebrities to shove self-serving platitudes at The Leaders of Tomorrow. You might disagree with the protests that convinced Condoleezza Rice to back out of Rutgers’ commencement ceremony, but you can hardly dispute that her $35,000 fee might be better spent elsewhere on campus.
Which is why the only way to end the arms race for an A-List commencement speaker—and the publicity that comes along with it—is to end the practice altogether.