After being scheduled to speak at Rutgers University for commencement, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rescinded her invitation to speak after Rutgers students protested her appearance, CNN reported.
Rutgers students expressed concerns over having Rice speak because of her involvement with the war in Iraq.
“Rice signed off to give the CIA authority to conduct their torture tactics for gathering information from detainees as well,” Rutgers students wrote in an open letter to the university’s president.
The letter continued, “These are clearly human rights issues. By inviting her to speak and awarding her an honorary degree, we are encouraging and perpetuating a world that justifies torture and debases humanity.”
Rice responded on Facebook after rescinding her invitation to speak at the university, noting that she was unwilling to become a distraction during the commencement process at Rutgers.
“Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families,” Rice wrote in a statement on her page. “Rutgers’ invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time.”
Rice continued, “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 30 years at Stanford University and as its 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.”
In their protest of Rice, students cited a 2009 Senate report that showed Rice cleared the CIA in 2002 to use “alternative interrogation methods,” including waterboarding.
In protest of Rice’s selection as the commencement speaker, over 50 Rutgers students staged a sit-in at the president’s office.
According to The Daily Targum, Rutgers’ student newspaper, the sit-in was one of the largest in Rutgers’ history.
At the protest, students “waved banners and paintings of Rice wearing a necklace of skulls next to an American flag dripping with blood,” Daily Targum staff writer Lin Lan wrote in an article covering the sit-in.
Randolph-Macon junior Connor Kish told The Yellow Jacket that believes Rice should have been allowed to speak at Rutgers.
“I think it’s unfair that she was convicted of a crime by a jury of outspoken students,” Kish said. “She was never convicted of the crime that they mentioned in a court of law, and so it’s sort of unfair that the students disqualified her with all the experience she has in government. It’s disappointing that she withdrew from an opportunity to speak.”
-Henry Ashton ’15, Senior Politics/Opinions Editor