Rutgers Faculty Council: Revoke Condoleezza Rice’s Invitation to 2014 Commencement

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NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Rutgers University's New Brunswick Faculty Council passed a resolution on Friday condemning the selection of Condoleezza Rice as the 2014 commencement speaker.

Rice, who is considered by many to be a controversial official in the administration of President George W. Bush, has not been well-received by the university community since she was announced as the graduation speaker last month.

"Condoleezza Rice…played a prominent role in the administration's efforts to mislead the American people about the presence of weapons of mass destruction," reads the resolution adopted Friday.

"[She] at the very least condoned the administration's policy of [torture] such as water boarding." 

The council had been working for several weeks to see this resolution through.  It was introducted by  chemistry professor Robert Boikess.

According to Boikess, "Commencement should be about celebrating. It shouldn’t be about politics and polarizing student and faculty by bringing such a controversial speaker."

Several other faculty voiced their support for the resolution.

French professor François Cornilliat criticized Rice's selection as "heavily political", asserting that "our students are being manipulated to deliver a political point."

History professor Rudolph Bell was somewhat ambivalent, saying that Rice should not speak at graduation, but should be welcome to speak at some other event.  Bell suggested that Rice was not the right person to "inspire graduating seniors."

The Faculty Council resolution called Rice's selection "misguided," and called for the Board of Governors to reconsider its decision.

The Rutgers Board of Governors unanimously approved Rice as the commencement speaker in February, and approved a $35,000 honorarium for the former Secretary of State.

Rice will also receive an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from the university.

The resolution said that such a degree "should not honor someone who participated in a political effort to cirgumnavigate the law".

"A commencement speaker, who is entrusted with speaking to graduating students about the direction of their future lives, should embody moral authority and exemplary citizenship", reads the resolution.

Similar controversies arose when Rice was chosen as a commencement speaker for Boston College in 2006 and Southern Methodist University in 2012.  

The decision was met with disdain from various groups within Rutgers University. The week after the Board of Governors meeting, The Daily Targum published an editorial which denounced the selection, going on to say that Rice as a commencement speaker was not appropriate.

"Given the very controversial policies and political decisions Rice is responsible for, we don’t feel that this kind of award is appropriate. In fact, we don’t think that it’s appropriate for any politician… [The] world of politics is a cold one", the Targum opined.

The Targum also published a letter submitted by Lawrence Michael Ladutke, a Class of 1991 alumnus, which criticzed the administration's decision. 

"Honoring such a dishonorable person is disgusting," Ladutke wrote, "Because doing so honors the inhumane and unconstitutional actions Rice carried out."

However, the administration and Board of Governors' stand by their decision. 

Greg Trevor, a spokesperson for the school said, "Dr. Rice is a highly accomplished and respected diplomat, scholar and author, and we are excited that she has agreed to address our graduates and guests at Commencement".

Republican State Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini of Mommouth County protested the councils' decision, saying "This is nothing more than a political firestorm fueled by their hatred of an opposing ideology, and President George W. Bush in particular. Dr. Rice and the people of New Jersey deserve better".