No Pennsylvania governor has ever been voted out of office, but that is about to change. I have never been certain exactly why Tom Corbett is so unpopular, especially when compared with the Republican governors of Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Maine, and Wisconsin. But education policy is a big part of it. It just wasn’t a good idea for Corbett to give the commencement address at Millersville University. Millersville is a state-run teacher’s college, so in addition to being students, the graduates are intent on becoming educators. That’s a doubly bad crowd for the governor.

You could hear a pin drop on Chryst Field at Biemesderfer Stadium when Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett finished his commencement speech Saturday at Millersville University.

Normally, such speeches elicit rowdy applause from the students awaiting their diplomas.

Not this time.

Millersville’s 2013 graduating class refused to clap.

About a dozen students – and at least three professors – weren’t even facing Corbett.

When he started to speak, they stood up, turned their chairs around and sat back down.

The students were quite clear on why they weren’t pleased to have Corbett give their address.

  • “I turned my chair around because I felt like I needed to show my disapproval of the cuts that were going to be taken to the budget for public education in Pennsylvania,” [Chet Klinedinst] said.
    “I felt like it was disrespectful to our class. I understand that you can’t just say no to the governor, so it would be disrespectful to just turn him away, but at the same time, we worked for four years for some reward to earn a degree, and it just seemed a little disrespectful in regards to his relation to public education.”
  • “Especially being a school known for teachers graduating … I know he’s not supporting our school system,” said Mallory Austin of Kennett Square.
  • “It’s just been hard to get all of our classes in,” Melanie Craig said. “I know both of us have taken summer and winter classes in order to graduate on time. Classes were cut and there aren’t enough professors.”
  • “I feel kind of a little hurt that he’s here,” [Susanna Sing] said beforehand. “I understand why he’s here, and I hope that we can be adult enough to be appropriate and give him the respect he deserves – but also make him understand he kind of hurt us.”
  • “It seems kind of counterintuitive that you would have someone who seems so against the educational system,” he said. “It seems a bit off … a bit of a curious selection,” said Matt Moul.
  • “I don’t agree with any of his positions, and I don’t agree with the decision to have him here,” Kara Williams said. “But at the same time, I’m not going to ruin our graduation by causing a disruption.”
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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at