2023 Commencement Speaker: Flava Flav

Disclaimer: this article was written for the April 1st issue and is a part of The Goofly. This Grizzly issue is satirical.

With graduation just under two months away, Ursinus College announced that Flava Flav will be the Commencement Speaker for the Class of 2023. Ursinus will present Flav with an Honorary Doctorate of Letters before his speech. The Goofly asked Flav, a graduate of Adelphi University in Long Island, about his upcoming honor, to which he replied, “I didn’t know a college that doesn’t have a graduate school could award someone a doctorate, but I’ll take it – as long as they print the degree in a clock I can wear around my neck.”

Flav, a member of the five-time Grammy nominated rap group, “Public Enemy,” is known for his flamboyant persona as well as the giant clock that he wears as a necklace. President Robyn Hannigan told The Goofly, “We chose Flava Flav because he embodies the liberal arts tradition. He attended a liberal arts college himself [at Adelphi University], and he made music that inspired political and social critique. The other presidents before me really dropped the ball on picking speakers that truly engaged with the modern liberal arts experience.” Flav surely embodies that diverse experience of the liberal arts, having attended culinary school in his youth and being able to play 15 different instruments, according to his counterpart of “Public Enemy,” Chuck D.

Flava Flav and Chuck D. formed the rap group, “Public Enemy,” in 1985. In 1990, they would catch national attention with their hit single, “Fight the Power,” which was about standing up to political and racial oppression. The group would go on to be nominated for a Grammy Award five times, with Flav releasing his first solo album in 2006, titled Flava Flav. Their music has inspired millions across the world, including our very own Dean of Students at Ursinus, Missy Bryant. She said, “Honestly, Flav’s music is what keeps me going at Ursinus. At times, my job is sad, and sometimes even painful, but Flav’s music somehow makes it all better. I’m so excited that he’s coming to Collegeville in May.”

Flav grew up in Freeport, Long Island, New York. When asked about his childhood, Flav said, “Long Island is like the Florida of New York.” When asked to clarify, Flav said, “That means Long Island sucks, kinda like Florida.” Some students, particularly those from Florida and Long Island, felt offended by the comments Flav made about the two places in his initial interview he gave to the Senior Commencement Committee.

The Senior Commencement Committee, the board of students that helps choose the commencement speaker each year, protested that his views toward Long Island and Florida could alienate some audience members. One member of the committee, Timothy Childman ‘23, said “Flav’s comments just really do not jive with the inclusive community Ursinus has created, which really tries to welcome those of all backgrounds – even those from Long Island and Florida.” Another member, Jenny Greg ‘23, said, “Flav’s comments brought up a lot of questions at our committee meeting, but [President] Hannigan was very insistent that if Ursinus wants to remain a competitive liberal arts institute, we would have to take her advice on Flava Flav.” Hannigan responded to the student objections by saying, “They’re just haters.”

One professor, who is not on but is from Long Island, Dr. Sandra Gaivishet, said “I just fear that Hannigan doesn’t truly understand what a liberal arts education is. Dr. Brock Blomberg would’ve never led us astray like this. He respected Long Island – and Florida too, for that matter.” Other students didn’t seem to mind Flav’s incendiary comments about the two places. Alex Browless ‘23 said, “Who gives a shit what he said about Florida or Long Island. I’m from Lancaster.” Another student, Joanna Billums ‘23 said, “Isn’t Florida and the Long Island the same thing?” not apparently referencing the cultural similarities which Flav observed, but commenting on what she thought was the latter’s description of the former. Florida may be long, but it is not an island – it is a peninsula.

Despite the backlash Flav has faced for his comments on Long Island and Florida, Bryant said, “We are going to go through with our selection. We are confident that Flav’s presence will bring an intellectually enlightened dynamic to our graduation that you really just cannot find anywhere else.” 

Kelly Sorensen, Associate Dean of the College, said, “Flava Flav is a thought leader who has dedicated his professional life to advancing many of the values that are central to the mission of Ursinus College. I’m looking forward to the wisdom he will impart to our graduating students, and I’m proud to welcome him to our commencement and baccalaureate ceremonies, regardless of his geographical views.” 

It looks like Flav’s presence at graduation is decided, leaving some students ecstatic, and some uncomfortably acquiescent. Whatever your thoughts on Flava Flav are, one thing you cannot argue is that the guy knows how to work a crowd – his speech will be a curious and intellectually inspiring send-off for the entire Class of 2023. After the ceremony concludes, Flav will be available for autographs and pictures for graduating seniors. Happy graduation to all of the departing seniors!