Condoleezza Rice pulls out amid protests at Rutgers
On Feb. 4, the Board of Governors at Rutgers approved Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state, as the speaker for commencement on May 18. On May 3, Rice declined her invitation.
Many events unfurled in the three months that led Rice, who was scheduled to be awarded $35,000 and an honorary degree to pull out of commencement.
The Rutgers-New Brunswick Faculty Council urged the BOG to rescind her invitation, citing her connection with the Iraq War that led to the death of 100,000 men, women and children and the displacement of millions of others.
Documents revealed that the selection process for Rice was hidden from the public and may have been biased by a personal connection.
More than 50 protestors barged into University President Robert L. Barchi’s office and risked getting arrested, demanding to disinvite Rice. Nearly 100 protestors interrupted a senate meeting and questioned Barchi’s passiveness toward their protest.
The result was a social media abuzz with opinions from the Rutgers community about the controversy and having to find a replacement for this year’s commencement speaker.
“Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families,” Rice said in a Facebook post on her page. “Rutgers’ invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time.”
Shortly after, Barchi sent out an email stating the University’s position.
“While Rutgers University stands fully behind the invitation to Dr. Rice to be our commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree, we respect her decision not to participate in the upcoming Rutgers University commencement …” he said in the email.
Robert Boikess, a member of the faculty council, said although Rice did the right thing by not “detracting from commencement in any way,” he did not appreciate that Rutgers stood fully behind the invitation.
Boikess and Carmelo Cintron, media spokesperson for the anti-Rice protest, believe that given the media attention Rutgers has received, it should not have a hard time looking for a replacement.
Rice congratulated the graduating seniors and wished them luck in her post.
“Good luck to the graduates and congratulations to the families, friends and loved ones who will gather to honor them,” she said.