UNCW Professors Rebuke Commencement Speaker for ‘Sexist’ Remark Praising Marriage

Diamond engagement ring
Chris Jackson/Getty

University of North Carolina Wilmington professors expressed their outrage over a commencement speaker who supposedly made a “sexist” remark during his address to graduating students. The speaker, Thomas Fetzer, suggested that a man should invest in a diamond ring for his future wife, to which one professor reacted by claiming his remark was “something right out of 1965.”

Thomas Fetzer, a member of the UNC Board of Governors, was chastised by professors for a supposed “sexist” remark he made during his commencement speech addressing the graduating class of 2019 at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW), according to a report by WBTV.

The commencement speaker reportedly deviated from the canned script prepared for him by the UNCW Office of University Relations and made comments deemed politically incorrect. Fetzer’s offending remark was the suggestion that one of the few items for which male graduates should borrow money for is a “diamond ring.”

Below is a transcript of the portion of Fetzer’s speech containing the impromptu remark that sparked outrage among professors. You can view his entire speech here, beginning at 23:03, with his supposed “belittling” remarks beginning at 26:32.

“Let me just cut to the chase young ladies, there are only two things in this world you should borrow money for. Your continuing education and a house. Pay cash for everything else because it’s a depreciating asset and you will end up owing more than it is worth. And that is the road to ruin. Those are the parents clapping. Young men, I will add one thing to the list for which you may borrow money. A diamond ring. Because it will appreciate, and so will she.”

Fetzer’s off-the-cuff and supposedly wild assertion that a man should invest in a diamond ring for his future wife shocked faculty members, they reacted by emailing the director of UNCW Transition Programs, Christina Logan, with their concerns after the ceremony.

“Much of his content was unnecessary, some of it entirely inappropriate,” said one professor in an email obtained by WBTV, “To advise students ‘Gentleman… you must invest in a diamond for your lady’ was something right out of 1965 — to say it was insulting to women who have just received their degree is an understatement.”

A second professor claimed that Fetzer’s speech had dated back even further than 1965, stating that it was “right out of 1865” instead.

“Whatever its vintage, it was completely inappropriate,” the professor affirmed.

A third professor argued that the commencement speaker’s remarks had been “belittling and denigrating to swaths of our population and counter to UNCW’s purported commitment to honoring inclusion and all peoples.”

“I was just really annoyed with the whole tone of the speech,” said UNCW graduate Taylor Sauls, according to WBTV, “It seemed really patronizing and I didn’t feel like my graduation was a time to be lectured or to kind of be spoken down to.”

“It is 2019 and this is not the time for archaic gender stereotypes,” added Sauls, “and I did not appreciate the implication at my graduation that I’m somehow worse with money or would be more inclined to take out loans for frivolous things than my male counterparts.”

Fetzer reportedly responded to the backlash by stating that he would be “amazed” to discover that anybody could find his speech problematic.

“The speech is on video and people can watch it for themselves,” said Fetzer, “and I would be amazed if anybody thought it was controversial.”

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo and on Instagram.


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