Morehouse College pushes the White House for ‘direct engagement’ ahead of Biden’s speech

ATLANTA — Morehouse College faculty members remain apprehensive about the decision to have President Joe Biden deliver the school’s commencement speech on May 19 and have asked the White House to take some steps to address their concerns.

Regine Jackson, a professor of sociology and the dean of the Humanities, Social Sciences, Media and Arts Division, said the faculty members were hoping for some “direct engagement” with Biden ahead of his speech, pointing to a town hall Vice President Kamala Harris held during her visit to the school last fall.

“There was an opportunity for an exchange, and we all recognize that commencement is not that opportunity, so [we’re] trying to find and carve out space and time for that,” Jackson said.

Jackson was among the roughly 80 faculty members who joined a virtual meeting last week, arranged by Morehouse administration leaders, to give them an avenue to voice their concerns, which largely centered on worries that Biden’s presence could distract from the graduation ceremony and unease over his policies toward Israel and its war in the Gaza Strip.

A spokesperson for Morehouse said that the request for additional dialogue with Biden was expected — and that the school proactively has been talking with White House officials about a meeting ahead of the commencement address.

The White House declined to comment.

Cedric Richmond speaks speaks on stage
Cedric Richmond at Morehouse College in Atlanta in 2018.Paras Griffin / Getty Images file

A top Democratic official who has been engaged in discussions with the Morehouse community is Cedric Richmond, a Morehouse alumnus who is a co-chair of Biden’s re-election campaign.

“I’m friends with everybody over there. Of course I talk to them,” Richmond said, adding that he intends to attend commencement but does not plan to go to the school ahead of time.