Students at St. John’s University are clamoring over the school’s decision to appoint Rep. Peter King (R-Long Island) as this year’s commencement speaker on May 19.
An online petition entitled “St. John’s University: Replace Congressman Peter King as the 2013 Commencement Speaker” was launched on Tuesday after the University announced the Congressman’s selection on Monday, with Fire Department Commissioner Sal Cassano speaking in Staten Island. The petition currently has over 350 signatures.
“A theme of this year’s Commencement Exercises is the remarkable collaborative efforts of New Yorkers in times of distress in the wake of Hurricane Sandy,” said University president Rev. Donald Harrington in the announcement. “We are fortunate to have our Class of 2013 hear of the valiant efforts of two major contributors to that recovery effort, as Congressman King addresses our students in Queens and Commissioner Cassano is honored at our Staten Island ceremony.”
Although the University appointed King as the commencement speaker for his role in addressing the victims of Hurricane Sandy, several St. John’s students believe his past remarks on Muslims do not fall in line with the school’s mission of diversity and tolerance.
“A decent portion of our student population is Muslim and to criticize diversity in America is contradictory to the values we uphold at St. John’s,” said Randy Cornish, a graduating senior.
“A school with so many Muslims and a school that boasts its diversity should not host someone who directly verbally assaults Muslims,” said Shaykh Ubaid, a recent St. John’s graduate.
One of King’s most controversial quotes include a statement where he mentioned that “85 percent of American Muslim community leaders are an enemy living amongst us.”
King’s office could not immediately be reached for comment on the petitions.