How is the Founder’s Day speaker chosen?


Image: Katie Atkinson

As part of a protest organized by Common Ground member and FORGE Vice President James Stair, students attended Founders’ Day draped in rainbow flags.

In light of the Founder’s Day speaker controversy, many are wondering how the speaker is actually chosen and who exactly is behind the scenes orchestrating this annual Mercer tradition.  


So who is in charge of choosing the Founder’s Day speaker?  

According to Student Government Association President Olivia Buckner and Vice President Oge Onuh in an email released to The Cluster, it is a collaboration between SGA and administration. Buckner and Onuh wrote that SGA is in charge of sponsoring Founder’s Day. From designing the shirts to coordinating a luncheon for the guest speaker, they play a significant role in the making Founder’s Day run smoothly.


How is the decision made for who gets to speak?

“Heritage Life Committee, [SGA] President, and [SGA] Vice President bring forward a list of potential speakers and bring it to President of the University. Upon request, President Underwood also proposes a list of potential speakers. From this combined list, we extend invitations,” Buckner and Onuh wrote in an email.  

According to Buckner and Onuh, once the invitations have been sent to all of the potential speakers from the combined list, SGA eliminates those who are unable to come to the event, those who they are not able to get in contact with, and those who declined the offer.

“From the remaining names, President Underwood then sends out the final invitation,” Buckner and Onuh said in the email.  

SGA is then notified of the guest speaker and they move on with the logistics of the event from there, Buckner and Onuh wrote.

The guest invited to come speak on Founder’s Day is not made by one ultimate decision.

Rather than a single person deciding who gets invited, it is more of a group collaboration,” Buckner and Onuh said in their email.


Where do we go from here?

Buckner and Onuh said that the process of choosing the Founder’s Day guest speaker has been a tradition. They wrote in their email that they are operating under the same structure and process that they have in the past. Yet, they said that they are more than willing to modify their process.

Tradition does not mean change is something to shy away from. We are looking at potential avenues to make this process more inclusive,” said Buckner and Onuh in their email.