Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice abruptly withdrew Saturday from speaking at Rutgers University’s commencement address amid protests at her selection from faculty and students and denouncements of her as a “war criminal.”
“Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families,” Rice said in a statement. “Rutgers’ invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time.”
The Associated Press reports that she was set to earn $35,000 for her speech on May 18 and was unanimously approved by Rutgers board of governors to be this year’s speaker.
The announcement of her selection prompted immediate negative reaction from Rutgers faculty and some students. The faculty council voted affirmatively to denounce her selection and urged the school to rescind its invitation.
They cited her role in the Iraq War for their opposition and believe it, according to their statement, “led to the second Iraq war, which caused the death of over 100,000 men, women and children, and the displacement of millions of others.”
Rice said in her Saturday statement that her record showed that she had “defended America’s belief in free speech and the exchange of ideas.”
The largest student newspaper, The Daily Targum, also urged the school to reconsider in a strong editorial that said that none of their commencement speakers should have “questionable politics.”
Other Rutgers campuses followed suit in calling for the forced withdrawal of Rice and students and faculty at the main campus staged a sit-in protest on Monday. During that protest, some participants held up signs that read “No honors for war criminals,”War criminals out” and “RU 4 Humanity?” The Star-Ledger reports.
No word yet on who will replace Rice as Rutgers commencement speaker.