Cornish College: Mike Daisey no longer welcome at graduation
In a reversal from previous statements, Cornish College of the Arts announced Friday that Daisey would will not speak at its May 13 commencement ceremony. Their parting of the ways is the latest chapter in a media saga that began with the playwright's one-man show, "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs."
Seattle Times staff reporter
Mike Daisey's blog entry on the Cornish College controversy: mikedaisey.blogspot.com
Playwright Mike Daisey and his monologue about Apple factories in China have received another bad review.
Cornish College of the Arts announced Friday that Daisey will not speak at its May 13 commencement ceremony and will not receive an honorary degree as earlier planned.
Cornish and Daisey's parting of the ways is the latest chapter in a media saga that began with the playwright's one-man show, "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs."
In the monologue, Daisey described interviewing workers in China who were poisoned by factory jobs, as well as underage workers who make Apple products. The show was staged around the country, and Daisey performed it at Seattle Repertory Theatre in 2011.
In January, Public Radio International's (PRI) "This American Life" aired excerpts from the piece. In March, Cornish announced Daisey would receive an honorary degree and speak at the spring commencement.
Less than a week later, PRI announced that it found some of Daisey's monologue to be fabricated.
The show aired a retraction in March, during which Daisey admitted to making up some of the interviews and guessing at the ages of some of the workers he spoke with.
Cornish President Nancy Uscher said at the time she stood by her decision to invite Daisey to speak: "We feel that he's had tremendous positive impact on the world of the arts, and he's an original artist," she said. She also said Daisey's appearance would be a "wonderful learning and teaching moment."
But the tone of Cornish's statement Friday was quite different.
"Mr. Daisey has acknowledged that he personally did not witness all the events that he said he did, and he exaggerated the level of his own experiences to journalists," a news release stated. "Since its founding by Nellie Cornish in 1914, Cornish College of the Arts has educated and prepared students to contribute to society as artists, citizens, and innovators. One essential principle of that education is the importance of professional integrity. Because of that foundational value, Cornish will not award an honorary degree to Mr. Daisey. Cornish and Mr. Daisey have mutually agreed he will withdraw from commencement."
Uscher was not available for comment on Friday, and Karen Bystrom, Cornish director of communications, said the college would not comment further.
In a post on his blog Friday, Daisey said he submitted his own statement to be used in an announcement about his withdrawal from the ceremony. But Cornish disregarded his wording. He referred to Friday's announcement as "Cornish's choice to grandstand on my back."
In a phone interview on Friday, Daisey said, "When an individual tells a falsehood, they have certain responsibilities, but when a corporation or an institution tells a falsehood, it has a different standard and a different responsibility," he said. "I publicly and clearly apologized (and) I expect them to tell the truth."
Cornish has selected artist Chris Csikszentmihályi as its commencement speaker.
Sandi Halimuddin: 206-464-3765 or firstname.lastname@example.org.