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Christine Lagarde, Smith College

April 2014
Smith College (Private college or university)
Northampton, Massachusetts, USA

Identity of Speakers

  • Christine Lagarde
    Faculty/Staff
    Invited for non-academic lecture

    Christine Lagarde is a European economist who chaired the International Monetary Fund from 2011 to 2019. She is currently the chairwoman of the European Central Bank.

Resources

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
    University-sponsored lecture/address/panel
    Rally or protest
  • Incident Responses:
    University administration protective of speech
    Other
  • Incident Status:
    No litigation
  • Incident Protested
  • Did not involve Speech Codes

Summary

In May 2014, Christine Lagarde, then the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), was scheduled to give Smith College’s commencement address. After a series of student protests against her appearance, however, Lagarde told Smith’s president that she wished to withdraw from delivering the address. The protesting students cited their beliefs that the IMF imposes unfair funding conditions on the loans it makes to developing nations.

For years, critics of the IMF have charged that, in providing economic aid to poor nations, it has imposed conditions that favor western nations and businesses. “The I.M.F. has been a primary culprit in the failed developmental policies implanted in some of the world’s poorest countries,” said an online petition against Ms. Lagarde’s appearance at Smith. “This has led directly to the strengthening of imperialist and patriarchal systems that oppress and abuse women worldwide.”

Kathleen McCartney, Smith’s president, was dismayed at the incident. In a statement she posted online shortly after Lagarde withdrew, McCartney expressed her regret. “An invitation to speak at a commencement is not an endorsement of all views or policies of an individual or the institution she or he leads,” she wrote. “Such a test would preclude virtually anyone in public office or position of influence. Moreover, such a test would seem anathema to our core values of free thought and diversity of opinion.”