Prominent Speaker Disinvited From School of Law Commencement Without Explanation

Prominent former South African judge and activist who was invited to speak at the School of Law’s Commencement was uninvited.

Justice Edwin Cameron, a former South African Constitutional Court judge set to speak at the School of Law’s May 11 Commencement Ceremony, was uninvited with no explanation.

Cameron was initially invited to give the School of Law’s Commencement address Oct. 6, 2023, but he said his invitation was later withdrawn by Law School Dean Michèle Alexandre.

The withdrawal was first made public in a May 19 Instagram post by Loyola’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. The post included pictures of the Oct. 6 letter in which Alexandre invited Cameron to serve as the Commencement speaker and a Jan. 29 letter which uninvited him. SJP’s post asserted Cameron’s likelihood to speak about Israel’s ongoing attacks on Gaza was the reason for the withdrawal.

“At the time my invitation was cancelled, I had not planned or drafted my comments, but since I spoke at Stetson Commencement some years before, when Dean Alexandre was Law School Dean there, about the rule of law and justice, it seems a probable surmise that I may well have spoken about Israel’s unlawful conduct in Gaza,” Cameron wrote.

He also identified the timing of the Jan. 29 withdrawal letter, which was sent soon after the Jan. 26 ruling on allegations of genocide brought by South Africa against Israel. In the ruling, the International Criminal Court ordered Israel to do everything possible to prevent further death, destruction and acts of genocide in Gaza, the Associated Press reported.

Cameron confirmed the authenticity of the letters and the accuracy of the post to The Phoenix via email.

Alexandre didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment. SJP didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Cameron served on the Constitutional Court of South Africa from 2008 to 2019 after previously being appointed to the High Court by President Nelson Mandela. He worked as a human rights lawyer and was a key HIV/AIDS and gay rights activist, according to his Constitutional Court bio.

In a Feb. 24 letter to Alexandre, Cameron requested an explanation or apology and gave his phone number for further contact. The only response Cameron said he received to this letter was a call from Alexandre May 3 where he said she denied he’d been “canceled” but gave no explanation for why he was disinvited.

“Your letter of cancellation is abrupt,” Cameron wrote in the letter. “It offers no apology. It would I think be courteous for you to offer some explanation and, in the absence of disgraceful or untoward conduct by me that might warrant discourtesy, an apology.”

White House Fellow and 2010 School of Law graduate Lauren Cherry, who gave the Commencement address at the 2024 ceremony, declined to comment.

Featured image by Austin Hojdar / The Phoenix

Hunter Minné

Hunter Minné