The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

Letter from the Editorial Board: Administration Should Respond on Michael Smerconish


Michael Smerconish, political commentator and radio host, responded to an opinion piece published in The Dickinsonian in print on April 25 and online April 30 regarding his upcoming commencement address to the Class of 2024 during a segment of “Headlines from the Newsletter.”

The opinion argues that the Class of 2024 deserves better than Smerconish as their commencement speaker because of his statements in support of the racial profiling of Arab Americans and Muslims in his 2004 book “Flying Blind,” views which he has continued to stand by.

The Dickinsonian seeks to represent and include a variety of student perspectives, and welcomes students’ diverse views. The opinion page, and the newspaper as a whole, are an open forum for the student body, and this article expressed the writer’s concerns, because of these statements, about his appearance as commencement speaker. Since the article was published, pro-Palestinian student protesters have assembled an encampment on Britton Plaza, with one of the key demands being the removal of Smerconish as commencement speaker. 

During his show, Smerconish said the opinion piece is “essentially wanting to cancel me, they deserve better than me,” a misinterpretation of the student’s concerns. In his defense of his commencement appearance, he did not actually respond to any of the quotes cited as causing concern, including his statement that Arab Americans “look like terrorists.”

Smerconish made fun of the writer for supposedly not doing research and not being able to find other examples of his “unworthiness” to be speaker. He is seemingly unwilling to engage in the freedom of dialogue that The Dickinsonian promotes, instead brushing off and trivializing the specific critiques in the article.

Though he published “Flying Blind” in 2004, during a time of heightened anti-Arab and Islamophobic sentiments in America, that does not make his statements right or acceptable. Dickinson students may have been young in 2004, but Smerconish’s dismissal of student concerns for that reason is absurd. 

In a Myrtle Beach Sun News article from 2012 titled “Some profiling just makes sense,” which was referenced in The Dickinsonian opinion article, Smerconish said he does not think every Arab American should be screened, but “we cannot ignore the commonalities in age, gender, nationality, religion, and appearance of the 19 men responsible for 9/11 and other acts of terrorism. Some types of people need to be screened more than others.” He did not address this more recent reinforcement of his anti-Arab views in his response to the article.

At the end of the segment, Smerconish, who said he will reread “Flying Blind” due to this controversy, said, “Chances are, that given the acquired wisdom of the last 20 years and all the knowledge that I have gleaned, and you know, reflecting on my life’s experiences, my hunch is I will probably stand behind every single word in the book.” His statements were not a sign of the times, but remain his own enduring prejudices.

Smerconish’s continuing expression of these beliefs make him undeserving of the honor of commencement speaker. The Dickinsonian promotes respectful, open dialogue, but does not condone prejudice or hateful statements such as those Smerconish has made. These are also the values of the College itself. 

He uploaded the clip where he specifically talks about this article in its own right, separate from the rest of the show. Though the opinion is completely public on The Dickinsonian website, the manner of Smerconish’s response did necessitate the removal of the name of the student journalist who wrote it because of concerns about harrassment. When mentioning the article, he used the misleading headline “Student says cancel Smerconish,” misrepresenting the nuanced and well-written critique from the student  as being part of a a culture war. 

In an April 27 episode of his YouTube podcast show “Tents = Trespass,” Smerconish said encampment protests such as those at Dickinson are ruining the last month of the academic year for campus communities. He said “[Students] are the priority” in his view, and these protests should not ruin their final month in school.

Students are The Dickinsonian’s priority as well. We champion and stand by the concerns of our peers. By publishing opinion articles, we serve as a public forum for the student body, whether editors personally agree or disagree with their sentiments. We hope that all students feel comfortable expressing their views, and feel supported and respected at all times, particularly during such monumental events as commencement.

President Jones has expressed full support of Smerconish’s role as commencement speaker, even doubling down on his views when The Dickinsonian brought student concerns to his attention prior to the publication of the opinion article. 

We ask that President Jones, the college administration and the Board of Trustees respond to student concerns, and make students their priority, too. We think that Dickinson College’s administration should put their students as a priority, address students’ concerns about Smerconish, and ensure their safety and comfort during commencement.

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  • L

    Larry LavenbergMay 7, 2024 at 3:01 pm

    Ben Franklin said something like this. “If we all think alike then no one is thinking.”
    Smerconish has a different view that can be thought about if Dickinson’s administration and student body were thinking, individually rather than as one.

  • G

    Garry (non-student)May 7, 2024 at 12:29 pm

    So, since removing Michael Smerconish, who did you replace him with? Did you get a better speaker as you desired?
    Did you find someone who promotes diversity of opinion everyday better than Michael Smerconish?
    Did you find someone one who is self-reflective of thier opinions and does not force them on anyone, but understands that they may be wrong too?

    I hope to see that you have done better than Michael Smerconish as your commencement speaker, but the bar is really high.

  • J

    Jay BMay 7, 2024 at 6:14 am

    He’s so Islamaphobic that he argued that USC’s Muslim speaker should not be cancelled. Interesting. To whomever Michael’s presence would harm, I say, “grow up!” You’re an adult now. Gather facts and inform yourselves. Otherwise, these knee-jerk cancellations will come around to you one day.

  • A

    Aardvark86May 6, 2024 at 6:54 pm

    The irony of a newspaper (of all organizations) having twice in the course of about five years putting out pieces to stifle speech is getting a little too rich. Boy oh boy am I glad that, some years ago, I stopped donating to universities and instead channel my contributions to organizations that actually help people in need.

  • T

    Travis TurnerMay 6, 2024 at 8:31 am

    You don’t want civil discourse. You don’t want free speech. You want free speech for people sharing your naivety. It’s just a shame that we have such weak administrators at our places of academia.

  • A

    A Dickinson SupporterMay 2, 2024 at 9:41 pm

    Kudos to the Dickinsonian for recentering the conversation and attempting to further discourse on this issue in a civil and sophisticated manner. Keep calling in others to the conversation, even when you are met with mockery, mischaracterization, or no response at all. Don’t accept being characterized as “woke” or allow Dickinson to be lumped in with other college campuses just because you provide a forum for a student concern and persist in attempting to forward the conversation about it. Engage. Have the conversation. Explore all sides. You’re journalists, after all. Keep up the good work.

  • A

    A Dickinson StudentMay 1, 2024 at 3:37 pm

    Thank you to the work all the students involved in the Dickinsonian do. It’s abhorrent that the President and admin continue to stay silent about Smerconish’s racist remarks, but also the fact that he openly condemned and insulted a student journalist’s work. At this school, I had hoped that the student’s voices and contributions to the community would be valued and protected. Clearly, this is not the case.