The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

The award-winning Shaker Heights High School student news organization

The Shakerite

Fudge Withdraws From Commencement Address

Glasner accepted the offer after a petition calling for the speaker’s removal reached 900 signatures
The district announced Fudge’s decision on Friday afternoon. They sent the statement to parents and teachers in a 6:03 p.m. email.

Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge withdrew as speaker for the class of 2024’s June 5 commencement ceremony this afternoon. 

The district announced the change on The announcement was also sent to parents and teachers in a 6:03 p.m. email.

“The Honorable Marcia L. Fudge, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, has asked to withdraw as guest speaker at the Class of 2024 Commencement,” the district stated. “Superintendent Dr. David Glasner accepted Fudge’s offer to withdraw Friday afternoon.”

Fudge withdrew following backlash about the choice, which came as a result of her past support of Lance Mason. In 2015, Fudge wrote a letter advocating for a lighter sentence for Mason, a former Cuyahoga County judge, when he pleaded guilty to assaulting Aisha Fraser, his wife. At the time, Fudge was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Mason went on to murder Fraser, a sixth-grade teacher at Woodbury, in 2018. Fudge withdrew her support for Mason in a statement after the murder.

“The District is reviewing the Commencement program and looks forward to celebrating the Class of 2024,” the district’s email concluded.

Senior Catherine Monroe, who created a petition at calling for the district to replace Fudge as speaker, said it was wrong to select her. “It was very inconsiderate, especially to the class of 2024,” she said. This year’s graduating class is the last that Fraser taught for a full year before Mason murdered her in November of the following year.

The petition garnered 932 signatures and more than 35 comments sternly criticizing the choice before Fudge withdrew.

“I didn’t expect to see the results from my petition so quickly,” Monroe said. “I believe that Aisha would be very proud of her students and community in what they have done and accomplished.”

Senior Lilith Schmidt said Fudge’s decision to withdraw was justified. “I think it was a wise move on her part because I know several people who were planning to boo her,” she said.

“The thing that I think affects me the most about it is that the administration is like, ‘Well, we’ve been trying to get her for years,’” Schmidt said. “You’ve been trying to get her for years? That’s more disrespectful.”

Glasner said Monday that the district has sought Fudge as a commencement speaker “for a number of years.” 

Holly Coughlin, who handles alumni relations for the district, said Thursday that she was involved in selecting the speaker, but that she was unaware of Fudge’s support of Mason. “When there was the first conversation, she was a secretary in the president’s cabinet,” Coughlin said. “I did not know she had written the letter that has come to light.”

“I would have advocated for a discussion about her,” she said. Thursday afternoon, Coughlin said that the district had not yet discussed replacing Fudge, but that there had been “discussions about having discussions.” 

A spokesperson for Fudge referred The Shakerite to the district’s statement. Executive Director of Communications and Public Relations Scott Stephens declined to comment beyond the statement.

Coughlin said it would be valuable to create a process for the community to provide feedback before a speaker is chosen, like the process employed when selecting alumni hall of fame inductees. 

“There is a nomination form, there is a committee. And I would like it to be that we use that as a template for commencement speaker,” she said. “You know, to create a process where, possibly, students weigh in, teachers weigh in, administrators weigh in.”

Dr. John Morris, the president of the Shaker Heights Teachers’ Association, reiterated the importance of discourse. “The SHTA continues to support the voices of members and Shaker citizens, including students, in expressing their concerns over important issues that impact our community,” he said.

Schmidt said Fudge should not have been considered at all. “I simply think that this district cannot forgive nor forget what she’s done,” said Schmidt, “and her accomplishments do not outweigh her being complicit.”

Josh Levin and Isabel Siegel contributed reporting.

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