Days after Grove City College in Pennsylvania announced that Vice President Mike Pence would deliver the keynote address at their annual commencement to the largest graduating class in the college's 137-year history on Saturday, some members of the school community have been riled by the decision.
Pence's planned speech at the Christian college will be the first of three commencement addresses he is expected to deliver over the next several days. He is scheduled to speak at the University of Notre Dame where a protest against him is also planned on May 21, and at the U.S. Naval Academy on May 26.
"We are proud to welcome the vice president and we are thankful that our graduates will have the opportunity to bear witness to his deep and abiding faith, quiet humility, and compelling leadership in challenging times," Grove City President Paul J. McNulty said in a statement. "This will be a lifetime memory for the class of 2017."
In an op-ed for The New York Times on Friday, however, Molly Wicker, a junior at Grove City College, said despite Pence's conservative bonafides, many students, alumni and faculty are concerned by his alliance with President Donald Trump and worry that his speech at the school could be seen as an endorsement of the president.
"Alumni and students flooded administrators' inboxes with emails protesting the decision, and faculty members have called for boycotts. Many who oppose the decision say that hosting Mr. Pence will serve as an endorsement of the current president," Wicker wrote.
She criticized the disparity between Trump's "pledged allegiance to conservative ideals" and his history of divorce, disrespect and bullying.
"For many on campus, Mr. Pence's reputation for being a very faith-oriented politician does not make up for his being Mr. Trump's vice president," Wicker argued.
Pence, who Wicker describes as a personal friend of Grove City College's president, will be the first sitting vice president to speak at the school and the highest ranking government official to ever visit campus where he will also receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. She maintains, however, that even under those circumstances, Pence should not have been invited to speak.
A group called the Slippery Rock Huddle is expected to have about 300 people gathering on sidewalks and across campus to protest Pence's visit, according to WKBN.
"We have absolutely no intention in disrupting graduation. We know this is a special day in the life of Grove City College graduates and their families," Sharon Sykora said.
While there are many dissenting voices on campus regarding Pence's visit, some haven't formed an opinion yet while others are excited.
"I'm sure some people don't want (Pence) to come," Kristi Riesmeyer, 22, a biochemistry major at Grover City, told The Herald, explaining that she doesn't have an opinion on Pence just yet, but she is honored that he will be speaking at her school.
"To have someone with such political authority to come to a small school ... I feel very honored and surprised," she said.
Tim Kearney, 19, biochemistry freshman, agreed.
"This is a pretty big deal. It's a pretty big name," he said, noting that Dr. Ben Carson, who is now the secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, spoke at last year's commencement.
About 5,000 to 6,000 people are expected to show up for the commencement event at the private, Christian liberal arts college of about 2,500 students on Saturday.
The Christian Post reached out to Grove City officials for comment Friday but they were not immediately available for comment.
In a response to WKBN, however, McNulty stood by the Pence invitation.
"We're very intentional here on this campus to communicate a set of values, appreciate what America is all about, leave here and be great citizens," McNulty said. "We're looking for great citizens to talk about their lives."
He said he is confident the weekend will not be disrupted even as protesters raise their concerns.