Barchi defends Rutgers' decision in inviting Condoleezza Rice to speak at commencement


University President Robert L. Barchi provided an email response this morning confirming that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be speaking at this year’s commencement as commencement speaker.

Ever since the University announced on Feb. 4 that Rice would be delivering this year’s commencement speech for $35,000, faculty, staff, students, alumni and those around the nation have been engaged in spirited discussion either in favor or opposition to Rice being the commencement speaker.

“We have even heard from high school students who have written to say that they would withdraw their Rutgers applications if we rescind—or fail to rescind—our invitation to her,” Barchi said in the email.

He said the University welcomes this “free exchange of ideas,” and affirmed that Rice will be speaking regardless of the public’s personal feelings or political opinions.

Many have expressed that politics can be polarizing, and therefore inviting politicians as speakers is inappropriate.

Barchi said although everyone has a personal bias, that cannot mean that certain people should be excluded from sharing their beliefs because there are those who may not agree.

“Free speech and academic freedom cannot be determined by any group,” he said. “They cannot insist on consensus or popularity.”

The Rutgers University New Brunswick Faculty Council approved a resolution

on Feb. 28 that asked the University to rescind Rice’s invitation, according to mycentraljersey.com.

Robert Boikess, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology introduced the resolution which said that Rice was very involved in the Bush administration’s effort to mislead America about weapons of mass destruction, according to the article.

“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,” the resolution said.

Barchi hopes that this controversy represents that the University is committed to open conversations and civil debate.

“I will continue to work with you to guarantee the University remains a space where ideas can be considered, discussed, and debated, a space that embraces and defends civil discourse, free speech, and academic freedom,” he said.


By Sabrina Szteinbaum

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