Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State and National Security Adviser under the Bush administration, has rejected an invitation to present the commencement speech at Rutgers University in New Jersey amid campus protests, involving both students and faculty. Despite the protests, University officials stand by their decision to invite her as a commencement speaker at the 2014 graduation.
As of last Saturday, Rice stated she would be skipping the graduation as the keynote speaker. After many weeks of protests by both the student population and various members of faculty, enough momentum was achieved to force the Rutgers University administration and Rice herself to agree on her absence from the graduation event.
In a statement regarding the matter by Rice as to why she is skipping commencement, she explains why participating in this graduation event would not have been in everyone’s best interest: “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.”
Amid campus protests at Rutgers, protesters state that the university and its officials should not have asked Rice to be the graduation speaker due to her heavy involvement in the Iraq war during the Bush Era. Many students, feeling in deep ill satisfaction regarding the decision, participated in a sit-in last week directly facing the office of Rutgers University’s president Robert L. Barchi.
Scheduled on May 18, Barchi stood behind the university’s position, stating that it was vital for Rutgers to preserve both free speech and overall academic freedom. However, Rice made it clear that her presence would have negatively disrupted the ceremony: “I am honored to have served my country. I have defended America’s belief in free speech and the exchange of ideas.” She then states that these mentioned values are critical to the health of democracy in the United States. Rutgers University has since respected her choice not to participate in commencement amid campus protests.
Even though Rutgers University’s president Barchi fully stands being the invitation to Condoleezza Rice, amid students outside his office chanting “Cancel Condi,” the administration fully accepts her refusal to participate in the event. However, students and various members of faculty are outraged, stating that their disapproval needs to ultimately be respected by the administration, as recent graduates deserve a real accomplished speaker who has unselfishly served humanity.
Meanwhile, at the University of Brunswick, university advisers agreed upon a resolution to take away Condoleezza Rice’s invitation to speak at the recent graduation event, citing her obvious role in the propagating the public into supporting the Iraq war.
These instances are not the first where Condoleezza Rice, skipping the Rutgers speech, has faced significant backlash for wanting to speak at graduation events. In 2006, protestors at Boston College literally turned their backs at her, holding up signs protesting her involvement in the war in Iraq. Skipping Rutgers graduation speech amid campus protests, this is another instance where Rice’s presence is not welcome because of her deep involvement in the Bush administration’s Iraq invasion.
By Scott Gaudinier