Note: This post was originally published at 9:25 am and updated as soon as Jarrett’s spokeswoman announced a change of mind.
Former Senior Advisor to President Obama Valerie Jarrett contracted with a struggling minority college to get paid $30,000 for a commencement speech.
Northeastern Illinois University, a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution, asked Valerie Jarrett to speak at the May 8th graduation to which she agreed for the tidy sum of $30,000.
NEIU Spokesman Mike Hines said in an email, “Valerie Jarrett is a role model for many of our graduating students as well as prospective students. We are pleased that she has agreed to be our Commencement speaker.”
As commencement speaking fees go, Jarrett’s isn’t out-of-line for well-known figures, but NEIU’s president just recently exclaimed that the school was in a “state of emergency” due to funding issues.
A donor has stepped forward to pay Jarrett’s contracted fee, but many are left wondering why the former Obama official didn’t offer to donate her fee to charity or as a scholarship for minority students at the financially-troubled university.
During an April 6th board meeting, one member found the agreement to pay the fee “disturbing” while another simply exclaimed “wow.”
“I’m not certain that’s the best use of funds,” State Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield said on Monday of payments for commencement speakers. “If it’s a private university, it’s one thing, but a public university that’s struggling, you would think someone would step up and graciously do the commencement.”
Update 4/11/17 12:38pm:
Valerie Jarrett has now waived the speaking fee according to a statement from her spokeswoman:
“While keenly aware of the financial challenges in Illinois, we were not aware of the specific issues facing Northeastern Illinois University or that a donor would be paying for the speaking fee. Jarrett notified President [Richard] Helldobler this morning that she will not be accepting a speaking fee for the commencement address. Jarrett looks forward to addressing the graduates and other members of the NEIU community next month,” spokeswoman Amy Brundage told the Washington Examiner.