"We think that this is a very respectful, very mild form of protest," said Judy Grisel, an associate neuroscience professor who helped organize the protest.
Bush intended to urge students "to help build a culture of responsibility," his press secretary, Dana Perino, told reporters Friday.
The speech, she said, "will reflect on how he went into public service because he was concerned about the culture and how he is heartened by the progress that has been made, especially in the young people who are embracing bedrock values of faith and family." for the many young people today who he says are embracing bedrock values of faith and family.
The president also planned to the emphasize volunteering, military service and "living lives of integrity."
In addition to the protest plans, 31 other professors have been granted "conscientious objector" status, allowing them to skip commencement exercises in objection to Bush's visit, university spokesman Vince Moore said Friday. There are 230 full-time professors at Furman.
Part of the animosity comes from the faculty's disagreement with Furman's president, David Shi. They say he failed to consult them before inviting Bush, breaking a tradition of having students give commencement speeches. Moore said Shi agreed with professors who voted this month to admonish him for not first consulting them.