The college announced that William F. Buckley Jr., author, editor and founder of The National Review, and host of television’s “Firing Line,” had accepted the invitation to be the speaker at the 116th commencement on May 25, 1980.  President Virginia Smith said of his selection, “Mr. Buckley is known for his strong and sometimes controversial opinions, invariably expressed in a trenchant and entertaining manner. College students like to consider all sides of any political or moral circumstance. For this reason, our Vassar seniors will give thoughtful attention to his ideas expressed at the commencement.”

Buckley’s conservative positions on nuclear weapons, homosexuality, apartheid, the Equal Rights Amendment, poverty and civil rights drew student immediate opposition—301 out of 506 seniors signed a petition protesting his selection. On May 19, a few days before Commencement, Buckley withdrew, telling President Smith that "the majority of the senior class of Vassar does not desire my company and I must confess, having read specimens of their thought and sentiments, that I do not desire the company of the majority of the senior class at Vassar."    The Miscellany News