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Rutgers Faculty Doesn't Want 'War Criminal' Condoleezza Rice To Give Commencement Speech

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CONDOLEEZZA RICE
Dr. Condoleezza Rice gives the keynote speech at the 2013 annual International Franchise Association (IFA) convention, on Monday February 18, 2012 in Las Vegas. (Photo by Barry Brecheisen/Invision/AP) | Barry Brecheisen/Invision/AP

Faculty at two branches of Rutgers University have asked the school to cancel plans for Condoleezza Rice to speak at this May's commencement ceremony.

On Thursday, professors at Rutgers-Newark voted to call on the administration to disinvite the former United States Secretary of State because of her role in the Iraq War and in the Bush administration's torture program. Last month, professors at the larger Rutgers-New Brunswick campus voted in favor of an almost identical resolution.

"This is not good for Rutgers," Rutgers-Newark English and American Studies Professor H. Bruce Franklin told The Star-Ledger on Friday. "What we're doing is awarding an honorary degree and having a commencement speech from someone who is a war criminal."

As reported by Inside Higher Ed, the resolution from the New Brunswick faculty in February stated that Rice "played a prominent role in [the Bush] administration’s efforts to mislead the American people about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the existence of links between al Qaeda and the Iraqi regime."

"The lies thus promoted 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," it read. Rutgers, "as a public institution of higher learning, should educate its students about past historical events, not pretend they never took place," the resolution continued, adding that the university "should not honor someone who participated in a political effort to circumvent the law."

The resolution also criticized Rice's legal defense of “enhanced interrogation techniques” like waterboarding.

Rutgers President Robert Barchi wrote a letter to the university community earlier this month stating that Rice will still be the commencement speaker at the ceremony in Piscataway on May 18.

"We have even heard from high school students who have written to say that they would withdraw their Rutgers applications if we rescind — or fail to rescind — our invitation to her," Barchi wrote. "These are the kinds of exchanges that every great university welcomes. Like all vibrant intellectual communities, Rutgers can thrive only when it vigorously defends the free exchange of ideas in an environment of civil discourse."

Faculty at Rutgers-Camden, the smallest of the school's three regional campuses, voted not to join their counterparts in Newark and New Brunswick in protesting Rice's speech.

Rice will receive a honorary doctoral degree from the university, as well as $35,000 for her commencement address.

In 2006, about 200 people protested Rice's commencement speech at Boston College. Some students turned their backs to Rice while she spoke.

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