North Carolina

UNC board member goes off-script — and gives gender-based advice in graduation speech

Tom Fetzer gives gender-based advice during UNCW graduation speech

Tom Fetzer, a UNC board of governors member and former Raleigh mayor, made off-script comments about men and women during a graduation speech at University of North Carolina Wilmington.
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Tom Fetzer, a UNC board of governors member and former Raleigh mayor, made off-script comments about men and women during a graduation speech at University of North Carolina Wilmington.

A North Carolina commencement speaker offered advice to graduates — but the tips they received depended on their gender.

Tom Fetzer, a member of the University of North Carolina board of governors, gave off-script financial tips for men and women during a speech Saturday.

Fetzer during a speech at University of North Carolina Wilmington told women they should borrow money only for education and houses, according to video of the commencement ceremony.

“Pay cash for everything else because it’s a depreciating asset, and you will end up owing more than it is worth,” he told the graduates in the video. “And that is the road to ruin.”

Then Fetzer addresses the men in the audience, giving them a tip about an additional time they should borrow money — for diamond rings, according to the video.

He says the jewelry “will appreciate, and so will she,” the video shows.

The sex-based comments weren’t part of Fetzer’s prepared remarks, according to a script the university sent to McClatchy via email. He was only supposed to congratulate graduates and talk about the campus’ achievements, including its response to Hurricane Florence, the email shows.

On Twitter, user Noah J. Thomas criticized the commencement address, calling it “the worst graduation speech ever” — and replies followed.

“DUDE thank you,” a user named Becka said. “I cringed so hard. The whole ‘ladies don’t go into debt but men buy your women diamonds’ thing?? Nope.”

But another person on social media said Fetzer “gave women great life advice” about money.

“Men you should buy your lady a real diamond ring,” Facebook user Lisha Jones said. “He kept it real, sooooooo what’s the problem?”

Fetzer, who is also a former Raleigh mayor, said the speech is online and that he “would be amazed if anybody thought it was controversial,” WECT reports.

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