Open letter to President Robert L. Barchi


Commentary


On Monday, April 28, roughly 160 students protested inside and outside of Old Queens, the building that headquarters the brain trust of the Rutgers University Administration.

A few hours after the protest, you sent out an email to the faculty inviting them to graduation, noting that it would be a historical one for two reasons: First, that Condoleezza Rice is slated to be this year’s commencement speaker, and second, that it is the largest graduating class Rutgers has produced. What you completely neglected and failed to mention was the sit-in and rally that occurred at your office for six hours that same day, showing your apparent disinterest in the students’ concerns and thoughts.

The undemocratic, opaque process by which Rice was selected as commencement speaker highlights the administration’s consistent disregard for the student and community voice. When Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Felicia McGinty spoke with us, she rejected our opinions and declared that our approach was erratic and irresponsible. We will return to this point. She also told us that Gregory Jackson, the president’s Chief of Staff, could receive the letter we intended to deliver to you. Instead, we asked for you to directly receive the letter, and if she could also schedule a meeting between us and your administration regarding Rice’s invitation. She replied that we had to leave the premises before any options could be considered and that she could only promise an “attempt” at scheduling a meeting.

Before the sit-in, we requested meetings with your administration, wrote letters and filed petitions, submitted op-eds in the press (nationally and locally) and attempted all means of communication with your administration, but to no avail. An “attempt” to request a meeting would be redundant given that we have already taken that path before with no results. It is important that you and everyone else realizes that this issue has gotten to this point only because of your blatant refusal to pay any heed to what Rutgers University students believe and feel. Time after time, you have ignored us, and as members of the student body you preside over, we demand and insist on having our voices heard and acknowledged by the governance of our University.

Dr. McGinty told us on the one hand that she was there to listen to us, and simultaneously maintained that our protest was pointless and would not be heard — that our actions were inappropriate and petty. Every avenue we have taken is either not heard or is considered inappropriate — so how else are we supposed to communicate with your administration? In 1985, your predecessor President Edward J. Bloustein, in a stand for justice and human rights, blocked the entrance to the South African Embassy along with other dissidents and was arrested for civil disobedience. Now, we have an entire school at Rutgers named in his honor. In light of his actions, who then is truly upholding Rutgers’ legacy of morality and justice?

Iraq is not a land confined within our imaginations, but a country of millions whose destruction came at the hands of the Bush administration and was enabled by our tax dollars. An estimated hundreds of thousands of lives were destroyed and 4.5 million children were orphaned. Rice signed off to give the CIA authority to conduct their torture tactics for gathering information from detainees as well. 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. Yet, you insist on the arbitrary decision to invite Rice to speak and to alienate the countless students and faculty that have been affected by her policies and disagree with you. It is time for that to change.

This letter represents the view on the selection of Condoleezza Rice as this year’s commencement speaker by Rutgers student protestors.

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