St. John's students upset over graduation speaker King
St. John's University's choice of commencement speaker has some students protesting.
The Queens university tapped Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) to deliver the keynote address at the event, upsetting some on campus because of some past remarks about the Muslim American community.
In a 2007 interview, King said there are "too many mosques in this country," though he later said he was taken out of context. The congressman, who also chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security, also held hearings on Islamic radicalization that drew controversy.
After St. John's student newspaper reported on Tuesday that King would be the keynote speaker, students organized an online petition, which had garnered more than 400 signatures as of 6 p.m. Wednesday.
"Congressman Peter King has made controversial and overtly racial remarks and his views do not accurately reflect the diversity of our student body," the petition on Change.org reads.
Jonaki Singh and Josephine Marescot, both seniors at St. John's, organized the petition after hearing that King would be speaking. They said King's past statements run counter to "what our student body values and represents: diversity and tolerance."
"We felt that we needed some way to express our concerns about this to the administration," Singh said.
A St. John's spokesman said that choosing a commencement speaker was "a challenging decision and one that the university weighs heavily," and that King was chosen because of his "bipartisan efforts to secure much needed federal funding for New Yorkers following Superstorm Sandy."
King, in a phone interview Wednesday, declined to comment on the student petition.
"I'm just honored to have been selected by St. John's to be commencement speaker," he said, calling the online petition an issue between the university and its students. "I don't want to be dragged into any kind of fight."