Bitter white liberals urge University of Minnesota to rescind Condi Rice speaking invitation

Eric Owens | Editor

A small group of angry white liberals is trying to force the administration at the University of Minnesota to revoke a speaking invitation extended to Condoleezza Rice because she played a role in the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rice, who served as National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, is now a professor at Stanford University.

She is slated to deliver a speech on April 17 on civil rights as part of the “Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series” at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

The two white people attempting to block Rice’s appearance at the University of Minnesota are math professor William Messing and undergraduate student Nick Theis.

Messing introduced a resolution in the school’s University Senate calling on the school’s administration to block Rice from speaking because, the text reads, she played “a prominent role” in efforts by the Bush administration “to mislead the American people” into the Iraq War. The resolution also condemns Rice for allowing “torture tactics” including waterboarding.

The balding, white-bearded math professor told the Star Tribune that he is “cautiously optimistic” about the vote on the resolution, which will occur next week.

The crusade against Rice was initiated by Theis. He is a member of Students for a Democratic Society, an obscure, tiny rehash of the leftist student activist group from the 1960s.

Theis discussed the anti-Rice resolution with Messing, and Messing managed to introduce the resolution to the full University Senate—a body which includes student representatives as well as faculty and staff.

Prahith Chakka, who chairs the Student Senate portion of the University Senate, said he is deeply troubled by the attempts to silence Rice.

“I will be vehemently speaking out against this resolution,” Chakka told The Daily Caller. “As an open-minded university, we should value diversity of thought and never deny students the chance to gain an alternative perspective.”

Chakka noted that the event is free (and already sold-out) for students, and that many students are excited about the opportunity to see Rice speak.

“While there may be some protesting from the ill-named Students for a Democratic Society, student opinion is on the side of letting Rice speak,” the student senator told TheDC. “As a minority student, I would strongly value Condoleezza Rice’s own perspective on overcoming adversity and serving in an incredibly important government position.”

Despite Messing’s cautious optimism, Theis doesn’t appear to hold out much hope that the resolution will ultimately pass or – even if it does – have any practical effect.

“It’s not like it’s going to bind anyone to do anything,” he told the Star Tribune. “I thought it would be a very powerful statement.”

Theis added that he finds Rice’s speaking fee of $150,000 troubling.

“Such an enormous speaking fee sends an unfortunate message,” the young student activist told the Star Tribune.

The resolution contains no language about the $150,000 fee, even though the steep fee could be a far stronger rationale to disinvite Rice. By way of comparison, the faculty at Rutgers University in New Jersey has opposed the selection of Rice as this spring’s commencement speaker. For her Rutgers speech, Rice will receive an honorarium of a mere $35,000 (and an honorary law degree).

Andrea Cournoyer, a spokeswoman for the Humphrey School, noted that funding from donors and a lecture series endowment will pay Rice’s fee.

“Rescinding any kind of invitation would be inconsistent with our goal of promoting discussion and dialogue,” Cournoyer told the Minneapolis broadsheet.

While the University of Minnesota is generally perceived as a hothouse of American liberalism, other politicians who have supported various American war efforts have not been the subjects of resolutions to rescind speaking invitations.

For example, in October 2012, President Bill Clinton spoke at the taxpayer-funded University of Minnesota on behalf of President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign. In the late 1990s, Clinton oversaw the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia—a military action that was never approved by the United Nations Security Council.

According to Human Rights Watch, approximately 500 civilians were killed as a result of the bombings.

In 2011, Sen. Al Franken gave the commencement address for the University Of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences. That same year, the Daily Kos harshly criticized Franken for voting in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorized the indefinite detention – with no due process – of American citizens deemed terrorists.

Chakka described Messing as “an old math professor” “with a reputation among math majors as pedantic and eccentric.”

Generally awful reviews on the website Rate My Professors bear out this analysis.

One reviewer says Messing “talks about everything except math most of the time” and “needs to retire immediately.”

Another opines that the aging professor “doesn’t seem to notice the students in lecture.”

“This guy is insane” and “like a million years old” says still another reviewer. “He yells at students.”

Theis, meanwhile, is a proud liker of Students for a Democratic Society at UMN on Facebook. His other likes include Occupy Minneapolis, Socialist Alternative and something called 1,000,000 Strong Against Work.

In January, Theis applauded Franken for his attempts “to DESTROY citizens united and RIP CORPORATE AMERICA A NEW ONE.”

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