[guest post by Dana]
It was reported a few months ago that Condoleeza Rice had accepted an invitation to give a speech at Rutgers University commencement ceremony, as well as receive an honorary degree. Her decision set off a firestorm of protests by Rutgers’ students because of her involvement in the Iraq war. These delicate flowers staged protests and sit-ins, claiming that because Rice had been a member of the Bush administration, she bore some responsibility for the Iraq War.
This morning, in an act of class and grace, Rice announced she was pulling out of the commencement ceremony.
“Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families. Rutgers’ invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time,” Rice said.
“I am honored to have served my country. I have defended America’s belief in free speech and the exchange of ideas. These values are essential to the health of our democracy. But that is not what is at issue here. As a Professor for thirty years at Stanford University and as it’s former Provost and Chief academic officer, I understand and embrace the purpose of the commencement ceremony and I am simply unwilling to detract from it in any way.”
To their credit,
Rutgers President Robert Barchi and other school leaders had resisted the calls to disinvite Rice, saying the university welcomes open discourse on controversial topics.
UPDATE: Last year members of Rutgers faculty sent an open letter to Rutgers president Robert Barchi demanding his “unqualified affirmation” of diversity, which they believed to be “a core value . . . and one of the pillars that informs the mission of the university.”
Fast forward to February, 2014, wherein Rutgers’ faculty passed a resolution protesting Rice,
NEW BRUNSWICK FACULTY COUNCIL RESOLUTION IN OPPOSITION TO SELECTION OF CONDOLEEZZA RICE AS COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER AND HONORARY DEGREE RECIPIENT FEBRUARY 2014 WHEREAS
Condoleezza Rice, as National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush, played a prominent role in his administration’s efforts to mislead the American people about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the existence of links between al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime,
WHEREAS the lies thus promoted led to the second Iraq war, which caused the death of over 100,000 men, women and children, and the displacement of millions of others,
WHEREAS Condoleezza Rice, at the very least, condoned the Bush administration’s policy of “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding, and its attempt to present such techniques as legal,
WHEREAS Rutgers, as a public institution of higher learning, should educate its students about past historical events, not pretend they never took place,
WHEREAS a Commencement speaker, who is entrusted with speaking to graduating students about the direction of their future lives, should embody moral authority and exemplary citizenship,
WHEREAS an honorary Doctor of Laws degree should not honor someone who participated in a political effort to circumvent the law,
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the New Brunswick Faculty Council urges the Board of Governors to rescind its misguided decision to invite former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to deliver the keynote address at this year’s New Brunswick Commencement ceremony, and to award her an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
UPDATE 2x: National Review notes that as the controversy erupted,
Rutgers president Robert Barchi said, “We cannot protect free speech or academic freedom by denying others the right to an opposing view, or by excluding those with whom we may disagree. Free speech and academic freedom cannot be determined by any group. They cannot insist on consensus or popularity.”