Several history and anthropology students at Queen’s University Belfast refused to shake the hand of the university president at their graduation ceremony to protest his comment that “society doesn’t need a 21-year-old who is a sixth-century historian,” The Irish News reported.
The controversial comment from the president and vice chancellor, Patrick Johnston, appeared in the Belfast Telegraph in May. A longer version of the quote reads: “Society doesn't need a 21-year-old who is a sixth-century historian. It needs a 21-year-old who really understands how to analyze things, understands the tenets of leadership and contributing to society, who is a thinker and someone who has the potential to help society drive forward. I don't talk about producing graduates, I talk about producing citizens that have the potential for leadership in society.”
Johnston subsequently clarified his comments in a written statement in which he apologized for “any misunderstanding.”
“In the interview I wanted to stress that a university education is more than the study of any one subject and that the aim is to produce graduates who have the potential to become leaders within our society. History graduates at Queen’s are thinkers who have the capacity to help drive society forward,” he said.