College President Defends Riley Gaines Commencement Booking

Riley Gaines gives commencement speech at Adrian College | Image by Riley Gaines/Facebook
Riley Gaines gives commencement speech at Adrian College | Image by Riley Gaines/Facebook

Adrian College president Jeffrey Docking is defending his decision to have Riley Gaines deliver the commencement address at this past Sunday’s graduation.

Gaines is a competitive female swimmer who attended the University of Kentucky. She has gained prominence for her advocacy of single-sex sports and has campaigned against transgender athletes competing in women’s sports.

The college president has been facing backlash from alums and students for choosing Gaines as the commencement speaker. Docking countered the criticisms by saying that students “should be challenged.”

“My feeling is with the amount of tuition that people pay to go to college, whether it’s here or somewhere else, that they should expect to be challenged, presented with thoughtful topics, things that need to be considered from the day they arrive until the day they leave,” Docking told the Michigan Advance.

“I don’t think that a commencement address is necessarily a time that should be solely focused on just making everybody feel comfortable. I think that making people feel uncomfortable during a commencement address is very consistent with what colleges should be doing,” he said.

Speaking with Fox News Digital, Docking said that since Adrian College has a large student-athlete population, he believes that the issue of transgender athletes in sports is “pertinent” to the college. He claimed that the school had previously invited a transgender person who advocated for transgender rights to speak on campus.

“So, we’ve had it on both sides,” Docking said, per Fox. “I do think that free inquiry has been pushed to the side in precisely those institutions, mainly higher education, that should be embracing it. … I think that higher-ed leaders need to hold strong right now and not cave to people that want to crush free inquiry.”

Docking expressed sympathy for the position of athletes who, like Gaines, are forced to compete against transgender competitors.

“To think that those women either here or anywhere else could be subjected to coming out for the first day on the team and being told you don’t have a spot on this team … two or three trans athletes are taking your spot because they’re bigger, stronger, faster, better lung capacity than you — just does not seem right to me,” Docking said, per Fox.

Docking said that Gaines “serves as a role model for courageously speaking out against an issue that could forever change women’s sports in America,” reported The Daily Telegram.

Gaines was greeted with applause and cheers. Her speech, titled “Daring to Speak Up: Finding Your Voice and Standing Your Ground,” lasted 15 minutes and focused on the themes of courage, faith, and freedom, per The Daily Telegram.

“I ask you who oppose my presence, ‘What are you so afraid of?”’ she said, according to The Daily Telegram. “Having your perspectives challenged? Being encouraged to engage in independent thought? The freedom of thought and expression should be cherished by all in a world where ideas are increasingly polarized, and dissent is often met with hostility. Never underestimate the power of your voice to spark change and challenge the status quo.”

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