Getty Images/Rick Kern

May means college commencement speeches, and those mean controversy. While no college is going to please all of its graduates, here are five 2015 commencement speakers who have students and their professors especially riled up.

1. Matthew McConaughey

Next week, Matthew McConaughey will deliver the commencement speech at the University of Houston, and some students aren't happy about it.

It's not that they're almost certainly going to leave with the actor's trademark phrase "All right, all right, all right!" stuck in their heads—that would drive anyone to justifiable protest—it's the fact that he's set to pick up $135,000 for the brief appearance.

As students sink into debt to cover rising tuition costs, some aren't thrilled McConaughey—who, according to Forbes, pulled in $21 million last year—is charging a six-figure sum to speak at a commencement ceremony. While McConaughey, a University of Texas at Austin alum, is expected to donate the money to charity, the University of Houston's student paper questioned why he should collect the fee at all.


"That’s a nice gesture, but he shouldn’t have charged the fee if he was going to give the money away," reporter Faith Alford wrote. "He could have done the commencement ceremony for pro bono—that act would have been a form of charity."

2. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani

Dozens of professors at St. John Fisher College signed a letter protesting the former mayor's planned commencement speech this Saturday.


"A graduation ceremony should be a moment in which we publicly acknowledge and show respect for all members of our diverse student body and their accompanying families," they wrote. "Regretfully, our speaker selection implies that we do not value all members of the Fisher family equally."

The professors pointed to Giuliani's statement, earlier this year, that he does "not believe that the president loves America and what they called his "disparaging remarks" about African-Americans protesting the officer-involved deaths of young black men.


After the university said his address would move forward as planned, the editorial board of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle said it welcomed his speech, but urged him to avoid speaking about his role in New York's post-9/11 recovery. Instead the board called on Giuliani to "tell the students what you think about this world we are setting them loose in. Tell us what your role is in overcoming injustice and how you will use your outstanding leadership skills to help make systemic and structural change."

3. Intellectual Ventures Co-Founder and Former Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myhrvold

Myhrvold, an alumnus and accomplished technologist,  probably seemed like a good choice when officials at the University of California, Los Angeles chose him to give the school's commencement address this year. But an opinion piece in the student newspaper later blasted him for leading a company it argues is "the world's biggest 'patent troll.'"


The author of the opinion piece, Ara Shirinian, called on the college to involve students in the speaker selection process moving forward "to ensure that future commencement speakers better represent the values of the student body."

4. Texas Governor Greg Abbott

Credit: German Torres via the Abbott Free UNT Facebook page


It's not a hefty speaking fee that has students at the University of North Texas angry about their commencement speaker; it's his politics.

After the school announced that Abbott, a Republican who has voiced opposition to gay marriage and abortion, would deliver the address, a student launched a petition to have him replaced, writing on that his views do not "align with the spirit of the University of North Texas which prides itself [on] providing equal opportunities for [its] students." The petition has garnered more than 2,500 signatures.

Some students have threatened to boycott the May 16 ceremony if Abbott isn't removed, but University of North Texas President Neal Smatresk told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he will not change speakers.


A Facebook group called Abbott Free UNT featuring students on campus holding signs protesting the governor has more than 1,500 likes.

5. Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Cardinal Timothy Dolan greets attendees in front of St. Patricks Cathedral during the annual Easter Parade April 5, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Victor J. Blue/Getty Images)


Some students at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York, were livid when they found out the leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York would give their school's commencement speech.

Dolan has come under intense criticism for not supporting same-sex marriage and for his handling of sex abuse allegations against priests.

"With the growing attention toward sexual assault on the Le Moyne campus, students have felt that keeping Cardinal Dolan as commencement speaker completely opposes what we have advocated against," reads a petition. The petition has been signed by more than 600 people, which is virtually the same number of people set to collect their diplomas from LeMoyne next weekend.


"In selecting a commencement speaker, we consider a number of criteria, including prominence in their field, the ability to deliver a relevant message to our graduates, and the individual's understanding of our role as a Catholic, Jesuit institution," Joe Della Posta, a school spokesman, told the Syracuse Post-Standard. "Cardinal Dolan is arguably the most influential leader within the U.S. Catholic Church, and we're confident his message will be compelling and impact a wide range of people in the audience."

Still, even noncontroversial speakers can leave students frustrated.

Last year, comedian Jay Leno told graduates of Emerson College in Boston to "try not to get a regular job." Thanks?


For more ridiculous advice from Leno and other speakers, check out the video below.

Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.