Graduation 2019 - Temple University, Japan Campus
For the past few years (2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013...) Temple University Japan has proudly published full transcripts of their student graduation speakers’ speeches on their website. This year however, was an exception.
The rush to take down video footage of the 2019 graduation ceremony that was live streamed may be due to a retelling of the sensitive and intensely personal story behind the creation of Uprizine. It may as well be due to a reference to the absence of Patrick O’Connor, former Temple University Chairman and lawyer of now convicted rapist Bill Cosby. Whatever the reason, the absence of the full transcript of the 2019 graduation speech from the TUJ website and the taking down of the ceremony’s video footage is telling.
At the 2018 graduation ceremony, O’Connor served as keynote speaker, a decision by the administration which both the members of Uprizine and many other students were extremely disappointed by. When Uprizine learned that O’Connor was going to be at the opening ceremony of the new TUJ building at Showa Women’s University on 6 November 2019, we collected 200 signatures in a few days as an act of protest. Although the Temple News picked this up and the signed petition was hand-delivered to Anne Nadol, Vice President and Secretary of the Board of Trustees of Temple University by TUJ Dean Bruce Stronach, we never received a response regarding an answer to the petition.
Tomorrow, Patrick O’Connor will be at TUJ once again during what should be a celebratory time. What makes this man so powerful that continuous protests from students he supposedly represented as Chairman does not get through to him? We have said it before, we say it now, and we will say it again.
Patrick O’Connor, you are not welcome here.
Please find an abridged version of co-founder Hikari’s graduation speech below.
With love, Uprizine
“Thank you. I’m honored and humbled to give this commencement speech for the 2019 graduating class of Temple University Japan. Very frankly, I am surprised that I was asked to speak today, but I’ll get to that later.
Now, let me repeat what I said at the very beginning of my speech: I am surprised that I was asked to speak today. Let me share with you why.
Other than my academic experience, my time at TUJ has included a wave of emotions that span from happiness and fulfillment to moments where it was as if someone had sucked out all the air keeping me afloat and replaced it with sadness, fear, and anger.
The inner workings of an institution manifests itself when something bad happens; when they’re faced with an unprecedented situation. And this happened at TUJ after a sexual assault case that the institution was unable to adequately handle at the time. Partly as a result of meetings, disagreements, and compromises with the institution by a group of students, not always pleasant, TUJ’s campus services are now more transparent. But none of this happens without a community of people. A community that has filled me with love. A community of students who I’ve been humbled to be a part of.
The school wanted me to talk about the work I did while at TUJ but honestly, I’m super uncomfortable right now and often struggle with expressing myself through words, as anyone I know could tell you. But here’s something I want to take this opportunity to selfishly impress on you, because it was part of my biggest takeaway from my time at TUJ.
We are not too young or insignificant to speak up and create change. Using your voice can lead to the creation of better things, like the new resources that came about from student efforts in reducing sexual violence that although far from perfect, are now institutionally in place for future generations of TUJ students so that nobody has to go through the same experience again. It’s not easy to constantly be reminded of something you’ve worked so hard to put behind you.
But what is easy, is to sit back and complain about gaps in our institutions. How they’re not perfect. They don’t work, and they don’t listen to the voices of the people. TUJ has given me this space today, to address you all and that means something about how institutions can change and listen to us, have humanity, and maybe even some humility.
The reason I share these stories with you is not because I think that they’re unique in any way, but actually, quite the opposite. We’ve all had unlikely obstacles that we have overcome to be here today. Whether it’s financial, family troubles, mental health issues haunting us at night keeping us from finishing that one essay that in theory, should be a breeze. It’s the fact that we’ve worked to overcome these experiences, that we should celebrate and be proud of ourselves. We’re graduating and for some of us, this was the unlikely obstacle in itself.
I like to try to leave the spaces I’ve stepped into better than they were before I entered. I believe that TUJ is now a better place because of all of us graduating here today who’ve walked through the halls of our institution. Just as much as TUJ has given us in life experience, we’ve given them by our presence.
The sun is shining, most of us are done with classes, and Patrick O’Connor is not here. It’s a beautiful day. We have loved ones by our side or waiting to be by our side soon. What a journey we’ve all had. Congratulations everybody, to the class of 2019.”