Stand with Us at Commencement!

Posted on behalf of Zakkai Kaufmann-Rogoff

Dear Fellow Seniors,

You may be aware that a group of WPI students, including myself, do not support the choice of ExxonMobil’s CEO as our commencement speaker. ExxonMobil, though a profitable corporation, has consistently acted against the goals of social and environmental justice. Just recently, ExxonMobil continued its record of irresponsibility by knowingly poisoning groundwater(link 1 below) in New York against the warnings of its own scientists and engineers. Most alarmingly, ExxonMobil has funded unscientific disinformation campaigns (2) to sow manufactured doubt about the science of the well-documented phenomenon of climate change. Even though ExxonMobil now recognizes this well-documented science and has apologized for its irresponsible funding, the latest reports indicate that they are actually continuing to fund disinformation groups (3). Furthermore, the company’s policies for addressing the severity of the global warming, which has been called the greatest threat to human health in the 21st century, are wholly inadequate (4).

Accepting ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson as our commencement speaker is an affirmation that we, as new graduates, accept his blessings and accept him as a role model for our participation in the workforce. We definitely do not condone the actions of ExxonMobil and we hope that you will join us in attending an alternate commencement address. For details on ExxonMobil’s history of unethical behavior and our stance against the company, see the letter signed by nearly two dozen WPI faculty members (5) and check out our website (6). We are supported (7) in our dissent by organizations such as the international and the Post Carbon Institute.

With help from many students, our group has come to an agreement with the administration to allow dissenting seniors to respectfully (8) stand up for their values at commencement. You are warmly invited to join us in one or both of these actions:

1. Attend a second commencement address delivered by famed sustainability author Richard Heinberg (9) of the Post Carbon Institute (10) right after commencement. This address stands in contrast to the address given by Rex Tillerson, but attending one does not bar you from attending the other. To hear Mr. Heinberg talk, please reconvene at 3:00 PM after the reception at the commencement stage. Please invite your friends and family to attend this address as well!

2. Deny your attendance at Rex Tillerson’s address. If you choose (11) to do this, you will still have your name called and walk across the stage. Students wishing to join us in this powerful statement should immediately read the instructions at the bottom of this email. Please note that our goal in doing this is not to not listen to Mr. Tillerson, but to show the community that we do not accept him as the figurehead of our graduation, we do not recognize him as a role model, and we do not want his wishes for our future. Sitting out is a symbol of commitment to an economically and ecologically responsible future.

We hope that you and your family decide to join us at Richard Heinberg’s address at 3:00 PM, and we welcome you to stand with us in denying attendance at Rex Tillerson’s speech.

Thank you.

Sincerely, Zakkai Kauffman-Rogoff, Class of 2011

WPI Students for a Just and Stable Future

To Deny Your Attendance at Rex Tillerson’s Address:

1. Immediately fill out WPI’s form at It is due by May 11th, tomorrow!

2. On the day of graduation (May 14th), meet at 9:30 AM at the upper level of Alumni Gymnasium (the basketball court). If it is raining, meet instead at the Odeum in the Campus center. Whether or not the rain location will be used will be posted on the WPI homepage by 6:00 AM on the 14th.

Students not attending Rex Tillerson’s address will socialize in the gymnasium while the rest of the class lines up to prepare for commencement (9:30 – 11:00) and attends the body of the commencement (11:00 – roughly 12:00). After the body of the commencement is complete, the dissenting students will join the commencement and sit down with the rest of the class, upon which students will begin receiving their diplomas. Instead of receiving a diploma, dissenting students will receive a diploma case, and then pick up their diplomas at the Registrar’s Office by May 16th or receive them in the mail. This empty case will look exactly the same as a diploma to the audience (ie no one will be able to tell the inside of it is blank.)

The ceremony will end soon after the diplomas are distributed. After a break to attend the reception, we will reconvene at 3:00 the commencement stage to hear Mr. Heinberg give his counterpoint address.

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