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Rutgers Students, Professors Protest Condoleezza Rice As Commencement Speaker

Rutgers University professors and students have decried the selection of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as commencement speaker and honorary doctorate recipient.

A faculty resolution recently passed at the New Jersey-based public institution says Rice condoned torture, such as waterboarding, and misled Americans about the reasons for invading Iraq; while the student newspaper The Daily Targum published a staff editorial calling the choice questionable and inappropriate.

The faculty resolution states in part that “Condoleezza Rice … played a prominent role in (the Bush) administration’s effort to mislead the American people about the presence of weapons of mass destruction” and that she “at the very least condoned the Bush administration’s policy of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ such as waterboarding,” reports the Star-Ledger. “A commencement speaker… should embody moral authority and exemplary citizenship … (and) an honorary Doctor of Laws degree should not honor someone who participated in a political effort to circumvent the law.”

“Rutgers, as a public institution of higher learning, should educate its students about past historical events, not pretend they never took place,” according to the resolution.

The council worked for several weeks on the resolution before the vote; it had been introduced by chemistry professor Robert Boikess, who said that “commencement should be about celebrating. It shouldn’t be about politics and polarizing student and faculty by bringing such a controversial speaker,” the Daily Targum reports.

In addition to faculty protests, students have rebuked the decision.

“To honor someone like Rice, who convinced the American public to back this war and who shares the responsibility for the lives that were lost, is at best embarrassing for Rutgers University,” wrote sophomore columnist Sara Zayed in the Daily Targum. “There is a long list of people who are much more deserving of that honor, who are more distinguished, capable, morally superior, intelligent, successful and so on.”

The Daily Targum editorial board also denounced the decision in an editorial, saying: “Do the positive aspects of her personal accomplishments really outweigh the destruction of war she contributed to during her political career? She was a major proponent of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which has been arguably the worst and most destructive decision in the history of U.S. foreign policy.”

“…Rice probably has a lot of advice on perseverance, dedication and hard work that she can offer to this year’s graduating class, but what she chose to do with those qualities is certainly questionable to us.”

A spokesman for the university told New Brunswick Today that they stand by the decision: “Dr. Rice is a highly accomplished and respected diplomat, scholar and author, and we are excited that she has agreed to address our graduates and guests at commencement.”

Jennifer Kabbany is associate editor of The College Fix.

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix and a visiting fellow with the Independent Women's Forum.